Sports chief revved up to bring F1 to HK

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 21 June, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 21 June, 2011, 12:00am
 

Sports supremo Timothy Fok Tsun-ting liked what he saw and has thrown his weight behind getting a Formula One race to Hong Kong.

Fok pointed to the interest shown in the Red Bull Dragon Run in Central last Saturday as evidence of how successful such a race would be.

'I was surprised to see so many people turn up just to watch one car go up and down a small stretch of road. The interest shown makes it worthwhile exploring the possibility of having a Formula One race in Hong Kong in the future. We should seriously look at it,' said Fok, president of the Hong Kong Olympic Committee, who was among the large crowd.

Organisers estimated that nearly 43,000 people, many of whom turned up hours before the exhibition, lined up along Lung Wo Road in front of City Hall, to watch Spanish Formula One ace Jaime Alguersuari drive a F1 car for the first time in Hong Kong.

'And after watching yesterday's [Sunday] dragon boat racing, it just reinforced my belief that sport should become an integral part of Hong Kong life. I met with a number of government officials at the weekend at both events and mentioned that an F1 race is something we should look at. Singapore has done it very successfully and I can't see why Hong Kong cannot follow suit,' said Fok, who also represents the functional constituency of sports, art and culture in the Legislative Council.

Fok was echoing the view of Automobile Association president Wesley Wan Wai-hei, who first brought up the issue of a Formula One race in Hong Kong when he told the South China Morning Post last week that the Red Bull Dragon Run would be the 'first step in gaining the support of the people' towards staging an F1 race through the streets of the city.

'It was a huge achievement. We were very much encouraged by the numbers that turned up, more than we expected, and the response we got from the crowd showed it was a success. We have taken the first step, but we have a long way to go before we can even dream of having a race in Hong Kong,' Wan said.

He added: 'This event proved that people in Hong Kong will support a Formula One race here. There were a lot of legislators and a few [government] department heads who turned up and I think they were pleasantly surprised by the number of people who turned up. They were very impressed.'

First impressions may have been good, but Wan knows a lot of hard work remains and it would be an uphill battle to convince the government and its departments to part with the money that would be needed to stage a Formula One race in Hong Kong. Wan estimated that the application fee alone for a five-year Formula One deal would be around US$150 million.

Singapore, which hosts the only night race on the circuit, - spends up to HK$1 billion annually to stage the showpiece. This cost is borne by the Singapore Tourist Board, which chips in 60 per cent, with the balance contributed by a private concern.

'Right now a Hong Kong Formula One race might look far-fetched but we have to dream big. What we know now is that such a race will be a success among the local people,' Wan said. 'It has been estimated that on race day, a Formula One draws crowds of up to 120,000. We put on an exhibition with just one car and got one-third of that crowd. I'm confident a real race would be a sell-out.

'But like I said, there are so many obstacles ... We are very thankful to all the government departments for helping us out in staging last Saturday's event. This also proves that if we really want it, it can be done.'

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