SCMP Monday, November 13, 2000


Middle Eastern bloc foils HK

GARY CHEUNG in Pusan, South Korea

Hong Kong's polling of the lowest number of votes in the second round of the contest to host the 2006 Asian Games showed it had failed to get any real support outside East Asia.
The SAR could only secure six votes in both the first and second rounds. Given that the votes of China, Macau and Taiwan were in the bag, only three others were attracted to the SAR. Voting members' identities were not revealed.
Of the 41 members of the Olympic Council of Asia, eight are from East Asia and 10 from Southeast Asia. Eight members represent National Olympic Committees in South and Central Asia, while 15 come from the Middle East.
Doha would have comfortably secured the 15 votes from Middle Eastern countries. Olympic Council of Asia president Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahd al-Sabah had apparently thrown his weight behind Doha's bid during a recent visit there.
North Korea's delegates, who were expected to back the SAR, did not turn up in Pusan yesterday.
Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, vice-chairman of Hong Kong's Asian Games Bid Committee, admitted that Arabic countries were united at international events and were inclined to vote as a bloc. Hong Kong officials said the SAR had little contact with Middle East countries. "We are disadvantaged in this regard," Mr Fok said. "I had asked the North Korean officials to put aside political difference. Perhaps they are absent this time because the venue is in South Korea."
Ronnie Wong Man-chiu, deputy secretary of the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, said many sports officials in Asian countries were astonished by the result.
"Doha has suddenly emerged as the strongest contender in the past two days," said Mr Wong, who was one of the six SAR representatives attending the meeting.
Some South Asian countries unexpectedly cast their votes for Doha, as did most of the five former Soviet republics in Central Asia, despite their close ties to China.
Qatar succeeded in drawing India's two votes after New Delhi was eliminated in the first round, adding to its 20 in the first round.
Malaysian officials claimed that Kuala Lumpur had made a deal with India to gather its votes if New Delhi were eliminated in the first round. The final count left them feeling betrayed.
The presentation by Doha to the General Assembly was by no means impressive, analysts said, compared to that of Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpur. A senior Chinese sports official said: "At the end of the day, the voting for the bid to host international sports events is a political game."
Mr Wong said it would have been better if the Government had launched its campaign earlier. The Government decided to bid last November, while Malaysia has been campaigning since 1997.