Sports officials angry over plan to move Kai Tak stadium

Abandoning plan to build a stadium at old airport site would be a 'huge letdown' for sports community, says senior administrator

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 23 October, 2012, 10:52am

A leading sports official has warned that the sports community will "take to the streets" if the government moves a long- and eagerly awaited sports hub from its proposed site at Kai Tak.

Members of the sports community yesterday registered their dismay after a government adviser suggested relocating the sports hub to make way for more housing.

Victor Hui Chun-fui, vice-president of the Hong Kong Olympic Committee, said the sports community was furious about the reports.

"Taking to the streets will be the last resort, but if the reports are true, then I don't think it will be hard to mobilise people for a protest," said Hui, a key figure in Hong Kong sports administration for the past 40 years. "Abandoning the Kai Tak plan would be a huge letdown."

Hui, a member of the Sports Commission - the government's sports policy advisory arm - formerly chaired the Sports Development Board, the Sports Institute, the government's Elite Sports Committee and the Hong Kong Football Association.

Michael Choi Ngai-min, who sits on the Long-Term Housing Strategy Steering Committee, on Sunday suggested doubling the number of new homes planned at the old airport site to 70,000.

A government source has said a shifting of the stadium to Sunny Bay on Lantau Island is under consideration.

Hui noted that Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying had repeatedly pledged his support for the Kai Tak project, before and after his election. "Just a couple of months on, the government appears to be having second thoughts. It seems to the sports community that the government is lacking integrity in this case."

The Kai Tak project, first proposed in 1998, was hailed as a good example of a public consultation, which lasted more than two years. The project aims to provide quality living with low density and open space in an urban node, accommodating 89,800 people. It would also be home to a world-class sports complex and cruise terminal.

The proposed sports complex will comprise a main stadium with a retractable roof and 45,000 seats, a secondary stadium with 5,000 seats, an indoor sports arena with 4,000 seats and other leisure and reaction facilities.

"Now [the government] is talking about moving it to Lantau," Hui said. "There will have to be consultations and environment-impact evaluations before the venue can be built. Who knows how long it will take? It may never happen."

Pang Chung, honorary secretary of the Olympic Committee, said the sports community should make its views known without delay. "We don't understand the government's rationale. Why can't they build the flats in Lantau?

"The Kai Tak sports project was first mooted in 2000 and construction has yet to start. If they are going to change the plan now, it may take another 20 years to complete. This is too much for the sports community to accept."

Lawrence Poon Wing-cheung, a lecturer at City University's building science and technology division, said it was unwise to sacrifice sports facilities for more homes, given a chronic shortage of such facilities.

"It is unknown whether people would still be very keen on buying properties several years later," he said. "The property market is ever-changing but the demand for sports is everlasting."

He said a compromise could be to increase the density to include more flats while retaining the sports facilities, which could strike a balance.

But Lingnan University political scientist Li Pang-kwong said increasing the density could lead to a shortage of infrastructure. He said the government was putting itself in a difficult predicament as the sports sector had long been promised the sports hub. "Now the government is not settling conflicts but provoking more conflicts," he said.

A Home Affairs Bureau spokesman said the sports hub needed careful planning as it was the biggest sports construction in the city's history. The government would consult the sports sector, all stakeholders and the public in planning the hub.