Hosting of 2019 Games 'would kill RWC plans'
A top government official has given warning that if Hong Kong was to host the 2019 Asian Games, it would mean the new stadium at Kai Tak would not be available for any Rugby World Cup games that same year.
Jonathan McKinley, deputy secretary for Home Affairs, cautioned the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union against having high hopes of hosting matches at the proposed state-of-the-art Kai Tak stadium, which is set to be completed by 2018.
'If we host the Asian Games in November/December in 2019, any Rugby World Cup matches that we might secure [the right to host] in the autumn of 2019 would have to take place at the 'old' Hong Kong Stadium rather than at the new 50,000-seat venue,' McKinley said.
The decision on whether to bid for the 2019 Games will be taken today by the executive committee of Hong Kong Olympic Committee. It is understood that most members are in favour of bidding for the 2019 Games rather than 2023.
In the meantime, the Japan Rugby Union, which won the rights to host the 2019 Rugby World Cup, has said it would like other Asian cities, such as Hong Kong and Singapore, to host some of the matches. This will depend on the International Rugby Board (IRB) agreeing to such a move.
Trevor Gregory, chairman of HKRFU, said if the new stadium was unavailable, it would virtually kill hopes to stage one pool in Hong Kong. 'I don't think we could host a pool having only one stadium. We would need to have a game every three days and it will be difficult to do that at Hong Kong Stadium. We had hopes of using both stadiums,' Gregory said.
That is now in doubt with Hong Kong hoping to host the 2019 Asian Games. Once a decision to bid is taken by the Olympic Committee, it will then need the government to officially back the bid. A letter of interest will then be submitted to the Olympic Council of Asia. The deadline for countries to express an interest is June 30.
'It would be great if Hong Kong got the Asian Games in 2019,' Gregory said. 'But when you think that this city has been deprived of so many international sporting events, it is an absolute tragedy if two major events clash nine years away.'
An Asian Games in Hong Kong would be held in November or December, following the same time frame as last year's East Asian Games. It is also believed that the Rugby World Cup in Japan will be held in the latter part of 2019.
'My understanding is that there would need to be considerable lead time for preparing the stadium for an Asian Games,' McKinley said. 'If we were to have the Games in 2019, it would make sense to build it initially to an athletics/opening ceremony configuration rather than a rugby/football set-up.'
We could then convert it after the Games to a rugby/football set-up, but this will be too late for the Rugby World Cup.'
Gregory agreed that it would be 'problematic', but said Hong Kong could still be involved in the Rugby World Cup - but in a smaller way.
'It's still doable at the Hong Kong Stadium although I doubt we will be able to get a pool in that case. We might only get a handful of games. It will be a real shame if we cannot use the new stadium,' Gregory said.