SCMP Monday, November 13, 2000


Honourable defeat

When it comes to winning the right to host a prestigious event like the Asian Games, there are unfortunately no prizes for coming second, let alone third. But the Hong Kong delegation need not be disheartened by what happened at Pusan. A successful bid involves as much preparation and training as an athlete requires to win a gold medal at one of these events. The prizes for hosting a successful games are many - prestige, international recognition and, hopefully, handsome revenues. The competition to host them is fierce and often underhand, as the recent scandals involving the bidding for the Olympic Games has demonstrated.
Hong Kong clearly did not have the political clout and financial muscle to compete against the likes of Malaysia and the surprise winner, Doha. This has been a learning process for Hong Kong. As the head of the SAR delegation Anson Chan Fang On-sang put it, the bidding process had been "an invaluable experience" which Hong Kong would draw on in the future.
The lessons that Hong Kong might have learned along the way can probably be summed up as follows: getting the right to stage a games is about politics and economics. The politics which comes to play is the same kind of regional considerations which are involved, for example, in winning a seat on the United Nations Security Council. Countries depend on their neighbours and on their region for support.
In the case of the bidding in Pusan, Hong Kong had the disadvantage of coming from a relatively small bloc of eight states in East Asia. Kuala Lumpur was slightly better off with the support of 10 fellow Southeast Asian countries. Doha, on the other hand, had the solid support of 15 countries in the Middle East who were eager to bring the Asian Games back to their region after a gap of 24 years. Doha also probably managed to get the support of some South Asian states who opposed New Delhi's bid, as well as the backing of some of the Central Asian states.
Doha not only had the strong political support of its fellow Arab states, it also had their financial backing. This has given the tiny Gulf state the ability to spend a billion US dollars on facilities for the games, including a US$700 million Games village.
Next time around, Hong Kong will no doubt go into this game with both more political clout and deeper pockets.