Chief executive’s policy address 2017

‘Parting gift’ from Leung as Hong Kong sports get a shot in the arm

Chief Executive places more emphasis on sport this time as the Elite Athletes Development Fund gets HK$1 billion in funding, while significantly increasing the provision of sports facilities

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 January, 2017, 7:30pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 January, 2017, 11:22pm

Leung Chun-ying finally placed sports on a higher platform during Wednesday’s Policy Address in a surprise move that local sports officials say is a parting gift from the Chief Executive.

Two years ago, he upset the sports community ago when he said “sports and religion that have no economic contribution to Hong Kong can all participate in the nomination process [of selecting Chief Executive candidates]”.

This time, Leung gave the biggest mention of sports development since he took office in 2012.

He used eight paragraphs to cover various topics in sports including facility provision, elite development, disabled and school sports and major sporting events as he outlined his last plan before his departure at the Legislative Council on Wednesday. This also came with a map and two factual boxes for illustration.

It was a big contrast from his four previous Policy Addresses when sports development was least mentioned. In 2014, he only used two paragraphs of 98 words while three paragraphs were similarly seen in both 2013 and 2016.

“We have done a lot of lobbying with the government and even met with Mr Leung before he furnished his report,” said Ronnie Wong Man-chiu, honorary secretary of the Hong Kong Olympic Committee. “Of course we know many of Leung’s promises will have to be carried out by his successor but at least it shows the government is taking sports more serious than before and hopefully this is going to be a good start.”

Among his “parting gifts” to sports, Leung said he had decided to inject HK$1 billion into the Elite Athletes Development Fund to further enhance the Hong Kong Sports Institute’s efforts in nurturing elite athletes.

Established in 2012 with a one-off injection of HK$7 billion, the Fund supports the operations at the Fo Tan training complex, which provides services to 17 tier A sports, 13 tier B sports as well as disabled athletes and individual athletes in other sports.

However, the Institute’s chairman Carlson Tong Ka-shing said after last summer’s Rio Olympic Games that they would seek guaranteed long-term government funding for its growing band of elite athletes as they faced uncertain returns from the Fund.

The Institute is running on an annual budget of around HK$400 million and failed to win any medals from the Rio Games after medal hopeful Sarah Lee Wai-sze lost in her both track cycling events. Cycling has the biggest budget among the 17 tier A sports at the Institute with an annual expenditure of over HK$20 million.

Great Britain, which won six golds in track cycling in Rio out of a possible 10, had a budget of £30.27 million (HK$309.5 million) for the Olympic cycle from 2013 to 2017.

“It’s money that matters for the Olympic Games. It just shows how it works at the elite level,” said Tong at the time.

Leung also decided to significantly increase the provision of sports facilities, and the government will spend HK$20 billion in the next five years to launch 26 projects to develop new or improve existing sports and recreation facilities amounting to a total of 54.

Of these 26 projects, five would go to the Legislative Council for funding support this year.

The Government will also conduct a technical feasibility study for another 15 sports and recreation facility projects to prepare for their implementation, including the proposed HK$250 million Water Sports Centre in Tseung Kwan O. Besides, pre-construction works for the Kai Tak Sports Park, the largest sports project to be built in Hong Kong, are close to completion. The government has also plans to go the LegCo this year for construction costs, estimated to be at least HK$25 billion.