East Asian Games fail to excite the public

PUBLISHED : Friday, 10 April, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 10 April, 2009, 12:00am

Sports officials are struggling to generate interest and excitement ahead of the East Asian Games, four months before tickets go on sale for the December event and in the face of polls indicating widespread apathy.

Torch relays, cultural shows and district activities are planned to publicise Hong Kong's first major international multisport event, together with banners, bunting and decorations on major roads and government buildings.

A Home Affairs Bureau paper says that 437,000 tickets, most costing less than HK$100, will go on sale in August. Concessionary tickets at half price will be available to senior citizens, the disabled and full-time students. Tickets for the opening and closing ceremonies - at the newly completed Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground - will be more expensive, according to the document, which does not mention the exact prices.

Although the Games are eight months away, they have generated little public enthusiasm and surveys have indicated that many people know little about them.

In a poll by the Hong Kong Youth Association 63 per cent of respondents could not say when the Games would open.

The Home Affairs Bureau promised that in the coming months it would step up efforts to encourage the community to take part in the Games and welcome the overseas participants and visitors. It would also work to create an 'exciting atmosphere in the city'.

Publicity events planned include a 200-day countdown ceremony next month, sports demonstrations and talks by athletes in July, and a torch relay in August.

There will be cultural shows between December 6 and 12 to boost the atmosphere and enhance understanding of where the participants come from. The paper is due to be discussed at Legco next Friday.

The Fifth East Asian Games, held every four years, runs from December 5 to 13. About 4,000 athletes and team officials will be present and 281 gold medals are up for grabs.