Right on cue, the rain falls for Hong Kong's Noah's Ark
When it started raining at 9.30am yesterday, it wasn't exactly coming down in biblical proportions but it was still fitting, as the gates were opening on Hong Kong's own version of Noah's Ark.
Under the Tsing Ma Bridge, the 25,000-square-metre 'full-size replica' of the ark was open for a special preview after more than 10,000 invited patrons - mostly from community groups - put the facilities through their paces in the past four months.
The ark is the centrepiece of the HK$1 billion Ma Wan Park - built by Sun Hung Kai Properties and now operated by an advisory committee set up by the construction giant and the government.
'We think this is different from anything else in Hong Kong,' said Spencer Lu Chee-yuen, Sun Hung Kai's project director. 'The feeling in here is of love and harmony.'
Noah's Ark was a ship that featured in Genesis in the Bible. God decided to destroy all sinners with a flood, but allowed Noah to save his family and two of every animal on an ark to later repopulate the Earth.
As for the latter-day ark, a few of the attractions proved a little too 'Old Testament' for some.
Secretary for Development Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor - officiating at the opening - questioned whether such sights as footage from New York's September 11, 2001 calamity (shown in the '4D' film The Future Ark, on the problems facing the planet), or images of human sacrifice (shown during the screening of The Great Flood, which includes a vibrating floor, flashes of lightning and gusts of wind) were what the government might wish youngsters to see.
Mrs Lam, however, was adamant that people should see the bigger picture and focus on the complex's themes of 'family, nature and moral values', as park staff described them.
'I think this project has special benefits, in a number of ways,' Mrs Lam said as she ducked into the ark, out of the rain.
'First, it signifies a new form of partnership between the government and the private sector - particularly developers - that through making use of the expertise of the private sector, we could create many more wonderful facilities.
'Number two, the developer has chosen to operate it on a non-profit-making basis, and to bring in the further expertise of Hong Kong's non-governmental organisations.
'Thirdly, having spent two hours here myself, it really gives you an uplifting experience.'
Mrs Lam said she believed the complex was all about positives. 'This is really a park that has a worthwhile rationale behind it that is trying to build up family cohesion,' she said. 'So I really would encourage families to come.'
When they do come - and management is expected tomorrow to announce the exact date from when they will be able to - families will be greeted by 67 life-size sculptures of some of the world's most threatened species in the Ark Garden. Inside, there will be films, an interactive children's museum called the Treasure House - operated by Angela Luk's Education Foundation - and an Ark Life Education House. The top floor of the ark is Noah's Resort, with hostel and hotel-style accommodation, while the Adventureland park outside features ropes and swings.
Noah's Ark is the latest attraction at Ma Wan Park, which already includes a nature park, while work has begun on a 'Solar Tower', which will focus on Chinese astronomy and solar energy.