SCMP Monday, November 13, 2000

SAR's Asian Games bid flops

GARY CHEUNG in Pusan, South Korea

Hong Kong yesterday lost its year-long battle to host the 2006 Asian Games as a shock vote by the Olympic Council of Asia awarded the honour to Doha, in Qatar.
The SAR and Kuala Lumpur were beaten in the second round by Qatar which has a population of around 600,000.
New Delhi was eliminated in the first round, having gained just two votes. The Games have not been held in a Middle Eastern country since Iran played host in 1976 in Teheran.
The SAR delegation said the Olympic Council of Asia did not disclose the number of votes won by the four bidding cities, but Sieh Kok Chi, secretary-general of the Olympic Council of Malaysia, revealed that Doha had won 22 votes out of the 41 votes cast in the second round.
Hong Kong could muster only six votes in both the first and second rounds. Kuala Lumpur was backed by 13 countries in both.
The council's 17-member board had accepted a new voting system to replace the first-past-the-post method. Under the new method, the city with the least votes was eliminated in each round until a clear majority emerged.
Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa said last night: "We will naturally feel disappointed at the moment. But, in fact, through the bidding process, we have obtained a lot of precious experience.
"The bid for the Asian Games has definitely aroused the importance which the community places on sports and has also enabled us to evaluate comprehensively current sports facilities. Looking ahead, the Government is determined and committed to working together with the sports community to promote sports development in Hong Kong in the long term."
However, both Hong Kong and Malaysia complained about the voting procedures.
Chief Secretary for Administration Anson Chan Fang On-sang said she was somewhat disappointed the process was not more open and transparent.
Mr Sieh, one of the Malaysia's representatives attending the General Assembly, said that the arrangement was unreasonable because it was a secret ballot.
He said he felt cheated and betrayed by some countries that had pledged to support his team's bid. He estimated that seven to eight countries had reneged on their promises. "We feel we have been stabbed in the back," he said.
Shortly before the voting process began, Mrs Chan said her mood was "extremely good".
"I got the news in the morning that my first grandson has been born. I hope I will have double joy by winning the bid for hosting the Games," Mrs Chan had said.
After the vote, she said she was disappointed with the result, but reiterated that the SAR had learned a "positive lesson" in the bidding process. She said Hong Kong had drawn valuable experience and did not rule out the possibility of bidding for the 2010 Games, although she said it was a bit too early to make a decision.
Pang Chung, Honorary Secretary of the Sports Federation and Olympics Committee, said in Pusan last night it would review the result before deciding whether to mount another bid.
Mrs Chan yesterday delivered the key presentation to the General Assembly. She said a new world-class stadium with a capacity of 75,000 would be ready well before 2006. It would be located at the site of the old Kai Tak airport in Kowloon.
After the result was announced, Mrs Chan stressed the new stadium was still necessary, but the timing of the project would be reconsidered.
Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, president of the Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China, and vice-chairman of the Asian Games bid committee, was clearly upset by the result. "I am sorry for failing to bring good news to all of you," he said. "But people of Hong Kong have changed their views on sports."
Mrs Chan said the bid did not falter for lack of effort. The Government decided to bid for the right to host the Games only last November, but Vivien Fung Lau Cheung-chu, vice-president of the SAR's Olympic Committee, said Doha and New Delhi had filed their bids after the SAR's.
Secretary for Home Affairs Lam Woon-kwong said it was a long-term policy to enhance sports standards and awareness of sports.