Must Hong Kong reinvent the wheel?

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 August, 2011, 12:00am


We are all for clever ideas and iconic structures to make Hong Kong stand out from the pack, bring in visitors, give our city spark and put us on the map.

The 60-metre-high observation wheel that a company is keen to put on our new-look harbourfront in Central would seem to tick all the boxes. And from the artist's impression, it is certainly eye-catching.

But before authorities plunge in and give the go-ahead, they should be asking the most basic of questions: Haven't we seen this before?

Indeed we have. Singapore has the world's biggest, 105 metres taller. London's South Bank famously has a wheel as well. The mainland city of Nanchang boasts another.

In fact, Hong Kong already has its own 27-metre version, at Ocean Park. Until the government decided to build its new headquarters at the Tamar site in Admiralty, a transportable version was from time to time on the harbourfront as part of a carnival.

So, novelty value is obviously out.

The curious among us will have a ride, but after that one time this attraction will be the domain of tourists.

Given that Ferris wheels have been around since 1893, is it such a good idea to put up something so familiar on waterfront land that we fought so hard to turn over to public use?

The lobbying of the government, and court battles, were about getting public access to the harbour, our greatest natural asset, not handing it to business to profit from tourists.

There is also the matter of reputation. Just because London and Singapore have giant observation wheels does not mean we must have one to prove we are at least equal. A copycat mentality is nothing to embrace or be proud of.