Equestrian fans will be heading to Hong Kong for the 2008 Olympics, host city of the event's horse racing competitions. "No city has ever prepared for the Olympic program in such a short time, it is really difficult," said Kim Mak, Executive Director of Corporate Development for the Hong Kong Jockey Club.
It has been two years since Hong Kong was picked as the site for the Olympic equestrian event, in July 2005. Shortly after the decision was made by the International Olympic Committee, the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad (BOCOG) and the International Equestrian Federation (FEI), Hong Kong set up the Equestrian Events (Hong Kong) of the Games of the XXIX Olympiad Co. Ltd. (the Equestrian Co.), to run its Olympic organizing. Operation of the company has been under the supervision of a committee, composed of officials from the Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, the BOCOG and the FEI.
About 1 billion Hong Kong dollars were needed for the construction of a racetrack and other special facilities at Sha Tin Racecourse, the main site of the Olympic event. The tight schedule and huge investment were a challenge but one that Hong Kong, with its tradition of horse racing dating back more than 100 years, has been able to meet so far.
"The Olympic expenditure won't be a problem for Hong Kong at all," said Timothy Tsun-Ting Fok, President of the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong prefers to use the market instead of a government budget to run its sport fairs. The Hong Kong Jockey Club, a non-profit organization, providing horse racing, sporting and betting entertainment, is the biggest sponsor of the coming Olympic equestrian contest. But one club is not enough. The city is trying to collect money through business and social donations. On June 8, the Equestrian Co. carried out a sponsorship program to encourage more businessmen in Hong Kong to support the event.
"The program provides an opportunity for members of Hong Kong's business community to join in the Olympic event with Beijing, under the policy of ‘one country, two systems,'" said Lam Woon-kwong, Chief Executive Officer of the Equestrian Co.
Lam said cooperation from different areas of society has enhanced confidence in the coming Olympics.
While construction of the racecourse is not yet complete, Hong Kong was highly commended by visiting officials from the International Olympic Committee and FEI for its outstanding work in preparing for the equestrian games last year.
Hong Kong will hold a test-run equestrian competition, with more than 20 competitors, equal to one 10th of the players that will take part in the Olympic Games, on August 11-13, 2007.
The suggestion to move the Olympic equestrian competition to Hong Kong initially encountered opposition from the FEI, members of which were worried that the three-hour flight from host city Beijing may alienate horse racing from the Games.