We cannot return empty-handed from 2020 Tokyo Olympics, says new Sports Institute chief

Medal is a must at the next Games, says former Legislative councillor and businessman Lam Tai-fai on his first day in office

PUBLISHED : Monday, 03 April, 2017, 8:30pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 04 April, 2017, 9:27am

Hong Kong must return with medals from the 2020 Tokyo Olympics after coming home empty-handed last year from Rio, said the new chairman of the Hong Kong Sports institute.

“Everyone expects us to make a breakthrough [winning medals at the next Olympic Games],” said Lam Tai-fai, who began his new role on Monday by meeting the media. “I would say the target is very clear as this is the common goal of the sports community.

“But which sport will this medal come from, and what colour?

“I can’t give you a clear picture because this is my first day as chairman. Give me some more time, say like six months later, I can provide a better picture of our targets.”

Hong Kong sent a squad of 38 athletes to the Rio Games last summer, taking part in nine sports – swimming, athletics, badminton, cycling, fencing, golf, rowing, windsurfing and table tennis. However, none of the athletes was able to win a medal.

Track cyclist Sarah Lee Wai-sze was favourite after winning bronze in London but her hopes in Rio were dashed when she crashed during the women’s keirin semi-finals.

Lam, a businessman and a former Legislative Council member, was previously active in Hong Kong soccer and helped finance top-flight clubs such as Happy Valley, Rangers and Sha Tin.

He was also the former chairman of the Hong Kong Handball Association and a key member of chief executive-elect Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor’s camp during the election.

With a record 19 tier A sports under the Sports Institute from this week, the chairman said they may apply for additional funding on top of the HK$8 billion seed money set up by the government.

“We know that returns recently on the seed money return is not very convincing, and this may affect long-term government funding for the Institute,” said Lam. “Also, the seed money is just a beginning and it would not stay at the same amount forever.

“Of course, it would be great if the government can give us HK$10 billion overnight but in the long run we must prove that every dollar we are spending is worth it before we ask for more funding from the government.”

The Elite Athletes Development Fund was set up by the government in 2011 with its investment return intended to support the Sports Institute. The government was expecting a five per cent return of the seed money but recent performances of the fund failed to meet its target.

Lam said he would try to understand more on funding for snooker, one of the 19 tier A sports at the Institute but which will receive only two years of support while the other 18 have four years.

“I know snooker is a non-Asian Games and non-Olympic Games sport and the decision of giving them two-year funding support came from the government’s Elite Sports Committee,” he said.

“I know it’s a concern of the sport and I will try to get a clearer picture.”