When it comes to sports, Hong Kong is losing race to Singapore

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 05 March, 2014, 4:12am
UPDATED : Thursday, 06 March, 2014, 5:56pm

Singapore is said to be as much a rival as model to Hong Kong. From business to tourism and education to attracting foreign talent, the two cities are often seen as racing against each other. Adding to the long list of competition is sports development. After years of planning and construction, the S$1.33 billion (HK$8.16 billion) Singapore Sports Hub is due for a soft launch next month. Comprising a 55,000-seater outdoor stadium, a state-of-the-art aquatic centre and an indoor stadium that holds up to 12,000 spectators, the hub is set to be a new landmark for both the local and international sports community.

It is a shame that our proposed HK$40 billion sports complex at the former airport in Kai Tak is still mere ideas on the drawing board. Project planning began as early as 2008, followed by a feasibility study. Sadly, five years have passed and officials are still seeking lawmakers' approval to fund pre-construction work. Under the plan, the future sports complex in Kai Tak will compromise a 50,000-seat stadium with a retractable roof, a 5,000-seat sports ground and an indoor sports centre. Impressive as it sounds, construction will only begin in 2016 and finish in 2019-20. Assuming no further delay, we are still six years behind Singapore. The snail-paced development makes a mockery of our reputation as the capital for swift infrastructure development. Not only has our image suffered, we have also lost out in terms of hosting international sports events as a result.

The city-state is already benefiting from our inefficiency and delay. Singapore's new hub has claimed at least one event from us - the rugby World Club 10s tournament. This came after the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union could not commit to holding the event because of uncertainties over the existing Hong Kong Stadium.

A policy to make Hong Kong a centre for major sports events was formulated as early as 2002. Ironically, it will be nearly two decades before the right facilities are in place. Officials should speed up the project lest more events go elsewhere.