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The Olympic Committee of Hong Kong has been criticised by Legco’s Public Accounts Committee for lacking transparency when selecting athletes for the 2018 Asian Games. Photo: Felix Wong

Hong Kong Olympic Committee slammed by lawmakers for lack of proper governance

  • Legco members take issue with the fastest swimmer in his event being ignored for the 2018 Asian Games and his place going to someone else
  • Transparency is also questioned with athletes unaware of selection criteria, while any review is done by the same selection panel

Legislative Council members on Monday questioned the governance of the Hong Kong Olympic Committee in its selection of athletes for major international games.

Members accused the sports governing body of lacking transparency when selecting athletes for the 2018 Asian Games at the council’s Public Accounts Committee meeting, following up the Audit Commission’s Report 74 released last month.

They cited the case of a swimmer who was the fastest in Hong Kong in his event but was not selected, and instead someone below his standard took his place at the Jakarta Games two years ago.

Members also claimed it was unfair that athletes were not informed the selection criteria included being a scholarship athlete at the Sports Institute. The Olympic committee’s selection panel stated it only dealt with NSAs and not athletes.

Hong Kong women’s 4x100m medley relay team celebrate their silver medal at 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta. From left: Chan Kin-lok, Stephanie Au, Camille Cheng Lily-mei and Jamie Yeung Zhen-mei. Photo: Reuters

“The Olympic Committee spends HK$20 million a year of public money but has it been fair to the athletes?” asked committee chairman Abraham Razack, who is also known as Shek Lai-him. “From the swimming case, we can see the situation is not ideal as the Olympic Committee has not done enough. The case has highlighted the problem of value in the use of public money.”

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The government’s Home Affairs Bureau said it would provide a specific one-off funding of HK$5 million a year for the next five years (total HK$25 million) to help the Olympic Committee and its 79 member associations improve their governance through reviewing their constitutions and operations.

But committee member Tanya Chan requested a detailed plan of how the government would use the money to achieve the target. “The Independent Commission Against Corruption has drawn up a ‘Best Practice Reference for Governance of National Sports Associations – Towards Excellence in Sports Professional Development’ for many years but it seems there has been little progress,” she said.

Ronnie Wong Man-chiu, honorary secretary general of the Hong Kong Olympic Committee. Photo: Chan Kin-wa

Chan said there should be a “subvention agreement” between the government and the Olympic Committee and its member associations on a yearly basis as a performance indicator.

Legco members were also surprised to learn that any selection review was also done by the same selection panel and there had never been any appeal made by national sports associations, including the swimmer’s case at the 2018 Asian Games.

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“The Olympic Committee should help individual athletes if they want to appeal so the entire process can be more transparent and fair,” said Legco member Paul Tse Wai-chun. “Any decision of the selection panel can affect the career of an athlete and it must be done with a proper mechanism.”

The Audit Commission’s Report suggested the Olympic Committee should explore the merit of establishing similar appeal mechanisms as adopted by Australia, Canada and the United States, where an independent body would hear appeal cases when disputes arise.

The Olympic Committee office in So Kon Po, Causeway Bay. Photo: Management Company of Olympic House Limited

In Hong Kong, the president of the Olympic Committee acts as chairperson of the appeal panel and chooses two members from a list endorsed by the committee.

Ronnie Wong Man-chiu, who represented the Olympic Committee at the meeting as its honorary secretary general, said they would not neglect athletes’ interests and promised to review the situation if necessary.

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This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: Lawmakers slam Olympic body