Hong Kong government slammed for spending HK$5 million to showcase Olympics action in sports venues

Momentum 107 group reports few people were present when it sent representatives to venues, but government insists more than 70,000 visits have been recorded

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 18 August, 2016, 7:10pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 18 August, 2016, 10:11pm

A HK$5 million government campaign to broadcast Olympics highlights on big screens at public sports centres has been slammed as a waste of taxpayers’ money given the low attendance rate.

Momentum 107, a concern group advocating government fiscal prudence, is demanding full disclosure of how the money was spent and has vowed to pursue the issue with the Ombudsman.

Aimed at engaging the public with the Rio Olympics, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) erected screens at its five sports venues in Tsim Sha Tsui, Chai Wan, Kennedy Town, Tseung Kwan O and Tin Shui Wai to show footage.

The venues are open to the public from 8am to 11pm until Sunday, when the games close.

While viewers can watch the Olympics for free at home, the government had to fork out HK$5 million to TVB, which secured exclusive broadcast rights, to offer a public stream.

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But site visits by Momentum 107 during non-peak hours on Monday and Tuesday found that no more than 16 people were present at any venue during 15-minute intervals. Some visitors were seen taking a nap, while others were playing Pokemon Go on their mobile phones.

Instead of broadcasting live action, the screens showed mostly highlights from previous days, and the footage was looped for most of the day before being refreshed.

Raymond Ho Man-kit, convenor of Momentum 107, hit out at government officials for their failure to foresee the time difference as most action took place in the early hours in Hong Kong.

“Are you asking people to turn up at three in the morning? Even if you do, the venues would be closed,” he said.

Ho said there had been successful cases of streaming major sports events with football fans gathering to watch the World Cup in shopping malls, which remained open until late into the night.

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The group called on the department to reveal details of the contract, and said it would follow up with the Audit Commission and the Ombudsman.

But Yeung Hoi-wing, district councillor for Kwun Lung constituency in Kennedy Town, said the campaign was well intentioned and he didn’t agree it was a waste of public money. He urged the LCSD to step up promotion for future events.

Exhibition areas and demonstrations by athletes were organised at the five venues, while TV celebrities were invited to perform.

But a Facebook search using the name of the campaign returned mostly information about singers who appeared, with little reference to the Olympics or its various sports.

The government said as of Thursday, more than 70,000 visits had been recorded at the five venues.