The following is issued on behalf of the 2009 East Asian Games (HK) Limited:
When the 1st East Asian Games were launched on May 9-18, 1993 in Shanghai there were only 12 sports, attracting 1,283 athletes to compete for the 170 gold medals at stake.
The same nine nations participating in this years 5th East Asian Games – China, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, Mongolia, Japan, Korea, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Macau and Guam – were also involved.
The 12 sports on the programme were aquatics, athletics, badminton, basketball, bowling, boxing, football, gymnastics, judo, rowing, weight-lifting and wushu. Soft tennis was introduced as a demonstration sport.
China, which had been flexing its muscles for some time in the world of sport, quite naturally walked away with 105 gold, 74 silver and 34 bronze. Hong Kongs first and only gold medal went to rower Ho Kim-fai.
Exactly four years later, it was the turn of Korea to play host and 13 events were organised in the port city of Pusan. With the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea deciding to give the Games a miss, Kazakhstan was invited to take their place.
And they did surprisingly well, taking home 24 of the 190 gold medals on offer. Again, it was China that stormed to the top of the table with 62 gold, Japan had 47, just edging out host Korea who had two less. Hong Kong did go away with the customary sole gold.
At the Pusan Games, bowling was relegated to an exhibition sport while soft tennis and taekwondo were introduced as competition events.
When the 3rd East Asian Games opened in Osaka, Japan, in May 2001, the number of sports had grown to 15. Badminton was excluded and replaced by bowling and the addition of handball, for the first and last time.
The Japanese also decided to relegate rowing to a demonstration sport and hockey made its first appearance as a demonstration event.
Australia was invited to participate as a non-member and a record 2,804 athletes turned up for the nine-day event. Again, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea was absent and Kazakhstan continued to fill their spot.
Hong Kong came to these Games as Hong Kong, China – the first time after the handover – and went away with a surprising three gold, one silver and three bonze. Even Macau managed to win its first-ever gold laurel.
The quadrennial Games next moved to Macau, China, and were staged in the autumnal months of October and November. By now, the number of sports had reached new heights V 17 in all, with the debut of dragon boat, dance sport, tennis, karate-do, hockey and shooting as competition events.
Dropped from the list were badminton, boxing, wrestling, volleyball and judo. However, rowing made a return.
China again showed its supremacy at these Games with a haul of 223 medals – 127 of which were gold. Hong Kong managed to bag 13, two of them gold. Host Macau did extremely well with 11 gold.
The Macau Games will go into the record books as Chinas Yang Lian lifted a stunning 117kg in the womens 48kg clean and jerk competition to set a new world record.
The spotlight will now be turned on Hong Kong where 22 events V 16 of them Olympic competitions V have been organised. Dropped from the programme are dragon boat and karate-do and replaced by rugby sevens, windsurfing, squash, table-tennis, cue sport, cycling and the return of badminton.
There are no marks for guessing which country will walk away with the biggest haul, but one thing is for sure, while the usual galaxy of star athletes will dazzle, novas will explode on the Hong Kong horizon. Whether new heights will be reached will be known at the end of each days competition. The stage and playing fields are all ready for Hong Kongs biggest ever sporting get-together. Let the show begin…