In keeping with the spirit of beginning the Christmas season early, the government has now offered the public the chance to make a bid to host the 2023 Asian Games at half the price by slashing the original budget by HK$8.5 billion to less than HK$6 billion. Having already extended its consultation period for another four weeks, the new discount looks like a last-ditch attempt to sell the idea to the public.
Unfortunately, each attempt to sell the idea further raises questions about the original justifications for the bid. Did the government forget what arguments it used to justify this project to begin with? One of the three questions asked in the consultation paper was: 'do you think hosting the Asian Games will help our athletes to achieve higher standards of performance?' Presumably, the government answered in the affirmative and believes that hosting a mega-event will improve our athletes. If that is true, then surely we should throw as many resources as we can into the Games to ensure local sport will receive the benefits. Instead, we have now halved the budget - does that mean that development of local sport is not worth our full commitment, or that the original amount was bloated? As the government now concedes, where it had 'aimed at the best' in improving venues, it will no longer do so to cut costs. If local sport was the intended beneficiary, it will now receive less of the potential benefit from hosting such an event.
The latest amendments to the proposal suggest the government was never sure why it wanted to bid for the Games and had no real justification for it apart from the fact it seemed like a good idea.
Quite rightly, the government should be thinking of ways to improve and develop local sport. Modern lifestyles tend to involve a sedentary workplace, and there are obvious health benefits to encouraging greater participation in sport. Thus, the question was never over where the line should be drawn to have an acceptably 'cheap' Asian Games, but whether hosting such events genuinely benefits development of local sport. Halving the budget does not answer this question.