Legislators raise more doubts over cut-price bid for 2023 Asian Games
Fanny W.Y. Fung and Tanna Chong
The government's latest attempt to lure support for a bid to host the 2023 Asian Games, by proposing a HK$8.5 billion budget cut, appears to have backfired. Legislators voiced further doubts yesterday about the revised figures.
On Tuesday, the venue subcommittee of the Asian Games Provisional Bid Committee announced the new option, which would cut the direct cost of hosting the event, from the original estimate of up to HK$14.5 billion, to less than HK$6 billion.
The money could be saved by shelving the plans to expand and upgrade three planned indoor sports centres, in Tai Po, Yuen Long and Sha Tin, the Home Affairs Bureau said.
Since the original cost of building the three venues was estimated at HK$820 million, lawmakers have queried why the upgrading and expansion budget could have stood at HK$8.5 billion - more than 10 times the construction cost.
Civic Party lawmaker Tanya Chan yesterday urged the government to give a full account of the numbers at the Legislative Council's home affairs panel tomorrow.
The Federation of Trade Unions said the proposed budget cut had only cast more doubt on the project. FTU legislator Wong Kwok-kin said: 'The cut in budget has not increased, but on the contrary decreased my will to support the project ... [It] seems to reveal the real intention of the government's bid - it is organising the Games for organising's sake.'
Jeffrey Lam Kin-fung, of Economic Synergy, said: 'Spending is a crucial element of the Games. I have to look into the details.'
The government would need the Legco Finance Committee's approval to carry out works for the Asian Games should it win the hosting rights. With big political parties having voiced opposition to the 2023 bid, the administration faces substantial difficulty in pushing the plan.
Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs Raymond Young Lap-moon said he was confident the proposed budget cut would help secure legislators' support. 'Most of those against the bid said they opposed it because they considered the cost of over HK$10 billion too high.'
He denied that the government had inflated the initial budget.
'At the beginning we aimed at the best, with venues which could accommodate 3,000 to 4,000 spectators,' he said. 'But is it possible to host Asian Games events at sport centres with hundreds of seats or 1,000? Yes, it is still possible.
'The difference is that we can't leave a permanent asset.'
Young said that under the new proposal, temporary venues would be built for media coverage, drug testing and preliminaries.