After dark at Hong Kong’s Ocean Park, the backstage team that keeps the show rolling
When the last visitor has left for home, an army of security staff, cleaners and technicians moves in and goes to work
As the sun sets, the music fades and visitors stream out after another fun-packed day, dozens more people descend on Ocean Park.
These are the security staff on the evening shift whose job is to usher out the last few stragglers and clear the way for the cleaning crew and allow the maintenance workers to perform their routine checks.
Watch: a walk through Ocean Park after dark
For the first time in its 40 years of operations, Ocean Park has offered a glimpse of the backstage operation needed at the 915,000 square metre site in Wong Chuk Hang that allows public to enjoy its thrill rides day in and day out.
With the lights down and waterfall turned off, security staff do their rounds in a blanket of darkness. Is there a visitor still lurking in a dim corner? No – not once over all those decades has anyone tried to hide in the park after closing time, security supervisor Ken Tse says.
Now it’s show time for the engineers and technicians who ensure the safety of every ride, including the cable cars, Ocean Express trains and many others. And yes, they do get to ride everything for free – it’s all part of keeping the show on the road for visitors to enjoy the next day.
At the maintenance platform of Hair Raiser – the ultimate experience for thrill-seekers – technician Liu Ching-wing is running through his checklist.
“Every night I need to examine the ride’s wheels and their rubber bands to see if there is any damage. We need to check whether the movements are normal and the screws are tight,” he explains.
As well as daily inspections, all rides undergo a major annual inspection.
But just looking is not enough. Liu, who is also responsible for the Flash, Arctic Blast and Bumper Blaster, conducts a detailed computerised analysis. Which means he has to strap himself in and try it for himself.
“During the ride, I need to remain composed and analyse the machine’s sound. But I never feel frightened. In fact I really enjoy the rides,” he says.
And the rides really are hair-raising – wigs are among the objects visitors leave behind, along with false teeth, shoes and all manner of other objects. But for some visitors, Hair Raiser is a thrill too far. “They just queue up and when they reach their seat they take some photos and leave,” Liu explains.
Back to the Golden Palace of Fortune at the waterfront, where a group of contract workers are busy erecting props for Lunar New Year decorations under the supervision of Frankie Kwok, project supervisor for events and entertainment.
“The highlight will be roosters emitting a shining light. It will be very spectacular and beautiful when the set-up is done,” he says.
Kwok, a member of the 20-strong design team in charge of the park’s big five seasonal events, says his favourite event is Halloween Fest, so he is always looking for inspiration, including watching a lot of ghost films, especially Cantonese ones.
Those starring veteran actress Helena Law Lan are a particular favourite.
“I was most impressed by a pumpkin sculpture show in 2013, for which we invited internationally renowned pumpkin sculptor Ray Villafane. I still remember he created one sculpture based on the face of Allan Zeman [then chairman of Ocean Park],” he said.