Chance to host Formula E electric car race missed as pollution soars
Chance to host prestigious Formula E event for electric vehicles is missed on same weekend that near-record levels of smog are recorded
As pollution levels approached the worst ever recorded in Hong Kong, the government has snubbed a bid to bring one of the world's most environmentally friendly and high-profile sporting events to the city.
The air pollution index at the roadside station in Causeway Bay peaked at 202 yesterday, the second highest level since recordings began 18 years ago.
Readings taken in Central and Mong Kok reached highs of 182 and 146 respectively.
Other stations in Hong Kong also recorded very high levels, and the Environmental Protection Department told people to limit their activities on busy streets as roadside air pollution was severe.
But the bad news did not end there. Formula E Holdings, promoter of the Formula E Championship, also made public its preliminary list of eight cities selected to host races next year - omitting Hong Kong.
The races will feature cars powered exclusively by electric energy. Hong Kong had been regarded by organisers as an ideal venue, but the government was not interested.
"Hong Kong will not be hosting a race next year. We can only hope the government will be more motivated in the future," said Alejandro Agag, chief executive of Formula E.
"We were just left waiting and had to make a decision."
Agag said his organisation provided government consultants with all the relevant details - such as the cost and how long streets would need to be closed - but heard nothing back. "It's hard to consider Hong Kong as a venue when they don't express their interest or contact us," he said.
The lawmaker for the tourism sector, Paul Tse Wai-chun, said the government had missed out on an opportunity to improve the city's image internationally.
"It would have been perfect to announce we were hosting a Formula E race here after the recent pollution problems. But all we have is even more bad publicity."
Cities included in the Formula E preliminary calendar are London, Rome, Los Angeles, Miami, Beijing, Putrajaya (in Malaysia), Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro.
A spokesman for the Tourism Commission said that at this stage it was premature for them to comment on whether it was feasible for an event like Formula E to be staged in Hong Kong and whether it would receive government support.
"We work to attract mega events and activities to Hong Kong to enrich our overall tourism appeal and reinforce our status as the event capital in Asia," he said.
Meanwhile pollution levels here are destined to remain high. Light winds mean the smog will not subside for a few days.
An Environmental Protection Department spokesman advised people with heart or respiratory illnesses to avoid staying in areas with heavy traffic.
"Everyone is advised to avoid prolonged stays in these areas and to reduce physical exertion in such areas," he said.