Plenty of time to prepare for Games, minister says
Fanny W. Y. Fung
Hong Kong doesn't have to meet all the required conditions for hosting the Asian Games before throwing its hat into the bidding ring, home affairs minister Tsang Tak-sing said yesterday.
The official made the remark as he gave the results of a 10-week public consultation exercise on a controversial proposal that the city bid for the right to host the Games in 2023.
Speaking at a meeting of the Legislative Council's home affairs panel, Tsang said Hong Kong could use the 12 years ahead to prepare for hosting the Games.
'We can see that for large-scale international sports events, such as the Olympic Games, the Asian Games and the World Cup, the common practice nowadays is for organisers to make a decision many years ahead. For the 2019 and 2023 Asian Games, the hosting cities will be decided in Tokyo in July next year,' he said.
'In fact, what matters in considering which city is to host an event is not whether it already has all the required conditions. If a city has the capacity to host the Games, it will have 10 to 12 years to create the conditions.
'Saying that we should bid only after meeting all requirements is inconsistent with the present international practice.'
Despite saying that the government had not yet decided whether to bid for the right to host the Games, Tsang said doing so would be a valuable opportunity to promote sport in the city.
While the pro-Games lobbying has been intense, a survey - commissioned by the government and conducted by Chinese University between mid-November and early December and released on Monday - found public opinion split. Of 1,848 respondents, 48.9 per cent opposed the proposed bid, a little more than the 46.3 per cent who supported it.
But Kam Nai-wai, of the Democratic Party, described the questions as misleading. He said opposition voices were underrepresented in the results. 'Why did it only ask people whether they could support the bid in view of the reduction in the budgeted direct cost from HK$14 billion to HK$6 billion, but not ask what they thought about the HK$40 billion total costs?' he asked.
Tsang said he had not been involved in the design of the questionnaire, and that the work had been professionally done.
The government will have to secure majority support on Legco's Finance Committee before it can get the necessary approval for the money to host the Games. Major political parties, including the Democratic Alliance for the Betterment and Progress of Hong Kong and the Democratic Party, which have nine and eight votes respectively, are opposing the 2023 plan. The Federation of Trade Unions and the Economic Synergy, each with four votes, have pledged to back the bid.
A survey of 1,848 people was conducted in November and December on whether the city should bid for the Asian Games.
The proportion who supported a bid was: 46.3%
The proportion of respondents who opposed a Games bid was: 48.9%