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Formula E 2016-17

Hong Kong should steer clear of Formula One

This city is simply not equipped to host a motor racing event of this magnitude

PUBLISHED : Friday, 02 December, 2016, 12:52am
UPDATED : Friday, 02 December, 2016, 12:52am

There are three prestigious international sporting events guaranteed to put a city on the world map: the Olympic Games, the World Cup soccer tournament and the Formula One grand prix car race. Of the three, the latter is the most straightforward to stage. With Malaysia deciding to give up hosting rights beyond 2018 and Singapore debating whether to continue, there is a possibility that Hong Kong’s name would be floated. But as exciting as the idea may be, it should be resisted in favour of more appropriate attractions.

Any motorsport fan would salivate at the prospect of F1 coming to town. It is the pinnacle of motor racing, the premier event on the calendar. The annual championship hosts 20 or so races, with four in Asia – Singapore, Malaysia, Shanghai and Japan. Each race draws tens of millions of television viewers, providing incomparable international publicity. The host city benefits financially from the tens of thousands of visitors and the party that accompanies the race is a further money-spinner.

No Formula One? No problem, Hong Kong can still put on a party for racegoers

But staging a grand prix is an expensive venture that requires hundreds of millions of Hong Kong dollars in government funding. For that outlay, the world needs to see a city in its best light during the race, something Singapore has done expertly with its nighttime Marina Bay street circuit. A track is typically at least 4km in length and there are weeks of inconvenience for preparation, practice, qualifying, race day and returning streets to as they were before.

Hong Kong is already hosting a race of the Formula E electric-powered car championship. While attracting substantially less international attention, it is a more appropriate sporting event for a congested city grappling with roadside air pollution. Also to be considered are declining TV viewership and attendance numbers for F1, the financial burden to taxpayers and our most likely track being a relatively unphotogenic New Territories circuit. Hong Kong’s name has not been raised, but they are matters that need to be given deep thought should the occasion arise.