Following is the full text of the "Letter to Hong Kong" by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr David Lan, broadcast on Radio Television Hong Kong today (May 28):
In the Summer of 1996, a young Hong Kong woman stood before the world's media and proudly declared: "Hong Kong athletes are not rubbish". That young woman was of course Hong Kong's first ever Olympic gold medal winner, Lee Lai-shan.
Since San San's triumph in Atlanta, a host of local athletes have taken up the challenge of showing the world just what they can do. Within weeks of our first Olympic gold medal, wheelchair fencer Ben Cheung claimed a remarkable four gold medals in the Paralympic Games. In 1997 cyclist Wong Kam-po beat the best that China had to offer in winning the SAR's first ever gold at the National Games in Shanghai. And in December, less than 2 years ago, I was privileged to witness our sportsmen and women in action at the Bangkok Asian Games, where they captured a total of five gold, six silver and six bronze - altogether 17 medals, far and away Hong Kong's best ever performance at a major international games.
Buoyed by our success in Bangkok, and by the local community's enthusiastic response to our athletes' achievements, officials of Hong Kong's Olympic movement decided that the time was ripe to push for Hong Kong sport to reach a new level. In June of last year, the Honourable Timothy Fok, who is the President of the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China (or the SF and OC, for short) declared publicly that the SF and OC was planning to mount a bid to host the 2006 Asian Games.
Shortly afterwards, in his role as representative of the sports community in the Legislative Council, Tim Fok moved a motion related to support for hosting the Asian Games. Speaking during the debate, I outlined Government's support in principle to the idea of the SAR staging Asia's biggest sporting event. Tim Fok's motion received the unanimous support of LegCo members.
Government's early expression of encouragement for the idea of hosting the Games was based on the view that such an undertaking would be likely to bring positive international exposure for Hong Kong, as well as helping to boost the further development of sport in the SAR. However, before committing to a firm expression of support for the SF&OC's bid, it was necessary for us to take a more detailed look at a number of related issues. Most important of these were the suitability of our sports facilities and the potential cost to the tax-payer for hosting the Games.
To help us assess the state of our sports venues, we sought help from one of the leading architects for the Sydney Olympic facilities. After an exhaustive - and exhausting - week touring the SAR's facilities and studying site plans and Asian Games requirements, the architect and his team concluded that Hong Kong would be capable in 2006 of hosting the "best Asian Games ever". Admittedly, some work would need to be done on upgrading venues or installing temporary spectator and media facilities. But in general, the Sydney-based architect's report assured us that Hong Kong had venues well capable of hosting the Asian Games.
Getting a clear idea of the likely financial implications of hosting the Games was a little more difficult. Projecting likely revenues and expenditure one year ahead is difficult enough, never mind six to seven years! In addition, much of the information which formed the basis of our financial studies was naturally sensitive, given that we are in a situation where we are competing with other cities for the right to host the Games. This sensitivity required us to be careful about revealing too much financial information too early, and led in some quarters to claims that the Government was deliberately hiding bad news in order not to jeopardize the Games bid.
Fortunately, these misunderstandings have now been dispelled. Throughout the process of our financial studies, Government undertook to release publicly, at the appropriate time, a full report on our findings. In line with our commitment to be open and transparent on this issue, we presented our findings to both the Home Affairs Panel and the Finance Committee of LegCo at the beginning of this month. On 12 May, the Finance Committee voted by a huge majority to endorse the bid to host the 2006 Games.
I believe that LegCo's endorsement reflects a view throughout the community that hosting the Asian Games can bring significant benefits to Hong Kong. This may seem at odds with the findings of our financial studies, which projected a likely Games operating deficit. But this is not just about money - rather, it is an opportunity to show our Asian partners and the whole world that there is much more to Hong Kong than the relentless pursuit of material wealth.
In bidding to host the 2006 Asian games, we are making a statement about Hong Kong's position in Asia and the world, and about our society's aspirations. The Games, from the bidding process right through to the closing ceremony offer us a unique opportunity to showcase our strengths, and at the same time galvanize the community in support of a common aim, namely to excel both as a host to Asia's biggest event and as a player in the Games.
Throughout the bidding process we will be creative and diligent in ensuring that we put the best possible case for Hong Kong to the Olympic Council of Asia. At the same time, we will be scrupulous in sticking to our principles of competing on a level playing field. We recognize that the bids from other cities are strong, but we are confident that we can win a fair fight. Our bidding team, led by the Chief Secretary for Administration is experienced and resourceful, and I have no doubt that we will set the standard by which other bids are measured.
And if successful, what then? We recognise the need to nurture the natural successors to the current generation of top athletes. To this end, we will continue to develop a sports policy which will encourage the stars of the future to commit themselves to training and competition at the highest levels. This policy must provide for greater participation at all levels of the community. We should also ensure that we have the facilities which, properly designed and managed, will serve the needs of sportsmen and women of all ages. This is in line with Government's "Sports for All" policy, and with what I said at the LegCo Finance Committee meeting - that each and every person should have a sporting chance.
My own vision is that in 2006 our unique city will provide the perfect back-drop for a two-week celebration of all that is best in Asian sport. Our dynamic, multi-lingual community will bring excitement and colour to the event. And our athletes will once again do us proud - this time on their home ground, and among their own friends and families. The "best ever" Asian Games will be held in Hong Kong. For sure.
End/Sunday, May 28, 2000