By Nick Butler

Hong Kong athletes at the Opening Ceremony of the last Asian Games in Guangzhou in 2010 ©AFP/Getty ImagesSpecial approval has been granted by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) to allow 14 athletes from Hong Kong, who do not hold valid Special Administrative Region passports, to participate in the Asian Games in Incheon later this year.

This is despite the fact the OCA is now following Olympic rules of eligibility which require athletes to hold a passport of the country they wish to represent. 

But, following much correspondence, a meeting was held between the OCA and the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong in Yangon in Myanmar earlier this month. 

It was decided athletes without passports can compete but only if they also took part in the previous Games, four years ago in Guangzhou.

The 14 athletes who will benefit from this decision consist of six cricketers: Jamie Atkinson, Waqas Barkat, Aizaz Khan, Roy Lamsam, Mariko Aota Hill and Ishitaa Gidwani, and four rugby players: Anthony Haynes, Keith Robertson, Lindsay Varty and captain Jamie Hood.

Cyclists Meng Zhaojuan and Diao Xiaojuan will now also be permitted to compete along with dressage rider Aram Gregory and footballer Xu Deshuai.

Hong Kong will be hoping to improve upon the silver medal they won in rugby sevens at Guangzhou 2010 ©Getty ImagesHong Kong will be hoping to improve upon the silver medal they won in rugby sevens at Guangzhou 2010 ©Getty Images

But the decision does not please everyone after two other members of the cycling squad, Yang Qianyu and Pang Yao, were ruled out because they did not compete at Guangzhou 2010.

With cycling one of the the squads strongest sports, Hong Kong Cycling Association chairman Leung Hung-tak expressed disappointment with the decision, claiming their medal hopes in the women's team pursuit were over because the duo will be absent.

"We have formed a quality team with a gold medal in Incheon our target," he said.

"But now both Yang Qianyu and Pang Yao will not be eligible, which means we cannot enter a strong team.

"We have replacements but they are not up to the same standard."

Hong Kong has competed in 12 of the last 14 Games, and in 2010 the squad finished 11th on the medals table with 40 medals, of which eight were gold.

Four of those gold medals came in cycling, while two were won in cue sports, and one each came in sailing and wushu. 

The Games in Incheon are due begin on September 19 and continue until October 4. 

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