Lack of venues 'costing HK dear'
A leading official yesterday urged the government to set out a long-term sports facility policy after Hong Kong lost the battle to host the world swimming championships.
Bidding to stage either the 2015 or the 2017 version of the world's second largest swimming competition next to the Olympics, Hong Kong was first defeated by Kazan of Russia and then Guadalajara of Mexico in a Federation Internationale de Natation (Fina) vote involving only the three candidates.
'After watching the presentation of the two other candidates, I knew we had very little chance of winning,' said Ronnie Wong Man-chi, Hong Kong Amateur Swimming Association secretary (pictured), who led the bid in Shanghai, where the 14th world championships start today.
'They were offering venues that can accommodate more than 10,000 spectators for a true world-class competition - a capacity that goes far beyond our standards.
'In fact, our facilities cannot even meet the need of the athletes and officials, let alone the media, sponsors and spectators. It was an obvious choice for the world body.'
The Kowloon Park indoor swimming pool, which was revamped for the 2009 East Asian Games, can only accommodate 1,500 spectators, while the HK$1.2 billion Victoria Park swimming pool redevelopment project, which is due to be completed next year, will hold 2,500 spectators.
There are more than 2,200 swimmers for the Shanghai world championships as well as hundreds of officials from 172 countries. The 16-day competition, which begins with diving preliminaries today, will be held in the newly built Oriental Aquatics Centre in Pudong, which houses a pool and 5,000 seats.
There is also an outdoor pool offering the same capacity.
'We know land is very precious in Hong Kong, but if we want to host major international competitions we need much bigger venues, or venues that can at least provide space for setting up provisional seats. Otherwise, there is no way we can make it,' Wong said.
'Hong Kong is an international city, but in terms of sporting facilities we are even behind a moderate city in Guangdong province. It's a shame.
'I have spoken to the government many times and they must rethink their facility planning strategy. Hopefully, they can learn from our defeat.'
Wong was confident a successful world event could be staged in Hong Kong, if venue problems were solved.
And the cost of staging the championships, estimated at more than HK$200 million, could be met without the government underwriting the whole cost, he said.
'The only other worry would be the budget, but if we can run the event in commercial ways we can obtain adequate financial resources from sponsors and through gate receipts. Spectators from China would also come to watch. After all, it is a high-profile sporting event that can attract a lot of attention.'
Kazan had four-time Olympic champion Alexander Popov, a member of the International Olympic Committee, in their corner.