Asian Games

HK urged to reconsider 2023 bid

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 09 February, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 09 February, 2012, 12:00am

The Olympic Council of Asia wants Hong Kong to reconsider its decision and bid for the 2023 Asian Games, hinting a shared bid with Shenzhen and Macau would also be entertained.

Husain Al-Musallam, director general and technical director of the council, said Hong Kong would be an outstanding candidate to host the Games and hoped the city would put in a bid.

Last year, the Legislative Council voted against a motion for HK$6 billion in funding for a bid to host the 2023 showpiece.

'If Hong Kong wished to have the 2023 Asian Games, I think they would stand a very good chance,' Al-Musallam said. 'I hope they will reconsider and bid for the Games.'

Following in the footsteps of Fifa, which named the host cities for the 2018 (Russia) and 2022 (Qatar) World Cups at the same time, the OCA had also wanted to pick the host cities for the 2019 and 2023 Asian Games at the same time - at this November's general assembly in Macau - but that decision has been revoked and only the 2019 host will be chosen.

'Initially, our thinking was to decide the hosts for both 2019 and 2023 at the same time. But we have changed our minds as we want a fair election and it is better to concentrate on one host city at a time,' Al-Musallam said. 'We will only pick the 2019 host city in November and decide on 2023 at a later date.'

Four cities are in the running to host the 2019 Asian Games - Taipei, Hanoi, Surabaya (Indonesia) and the United Arab Emirates with the host city still to be disclosed.

With more time to plan a bid, the OCA hopes Hong Kong will show renewed interest in a fresh bid for the 2023 Games, and has suggested the city could also share the event with its Pearl River delta neighbours.

'Hong Kong would be a great place to have an Asian Games. They also have Shenzhen and Macau next door and I don't think facilities will be a problem. With new facilities for faster trains expected to be ready by 2023, it means sports facilities in the whole area can be used,' Al-Musallam said.

'The success of the Guangzhou Asian Games [in 2010] also shows that another games in this region can be a success.'

Pang Chung, secretary-general of the Hong Kong Olympic committee, warned that having been bitten once, the mood would have to change if Hong Kong were to enter the race.

'We will have to wait and see if the [political] climate is suitable before we can bid again,' Pang said. 'If there is no wind before we try to hoist our sail, we will lose again.'

In January last year, the government suffered a humiliating defeat in the Legislative Council as its motion seeking HK$6 billion for a bid to host the 2023 Asian Games was rejected by an overwhelming 40-14 majority.

It wasn't surprising as the entire process had been dogged by controversy. Officials had initially forecast the direct costs of hosting the games would be HK$14.5 billion, plus HK$30 billion in indirect costs for new sports facilities that are planned whether or not Hong Kong hosts the event.

The direct costs were later reduced to HK$6 billion, but despite an exercise in damage control, the impetus for the bid was lost and it faced opposition from the public.

Meanwhile, the OCA said progress on next year's Incheon (South Korea) Asian Games was well advanced. 'We will have 36 sports in Incheon and everything is moving smoothly towards a successful games,' Al-Musallam said. 'If Hong Kong wants, they can go with the minimum 28 Olympic sports in 2023.'