Hong Kong's Olympics chief, Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, yesterday called for the government to make an immediate and unequivocal commitment to building the Kai Tak sports hub before he could throw his weight behind a renewed attempt to host the 2023 Asian Games.
'Everyone keeps asking if we should make another bid for the Asian Games. Before I can do that, we need a firm commitment from the government that all the facilities will be in place by then,' Fok (pictured) said at a ceremony to mark the 100-day countdown to the London Olympics.
'The government has to assure us that all the sporting facilities will be built and be ready before 2023.
'Once they do that, then we can discuss if we should once again bid for the Asian Games.'
The vexed issue of which comes first is proving to be a stumbling block for a renewed bid by Hong Kong to host the second-biggest multi sports event next to the Olympics.
In February, the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) urged Hong Kong to reconsider its decision not to bid for the 2023 Asian Games, after the OCA had rescinded a move to pick the hosts for the 2019 and 2023 Games at the same time.
Husain al-Musallam, OCA director-general and technical director, said Hong Kong would 'stand a very good chance' to host and hoped the city would 'reconsider and bid'. The council also hinted that a shared bid with Shenzhen and Macau would be entertained.
Soon after, a top government official in charge of sports announced that the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong (SF&OC) would have to take the lead role.
'This is a matter for the SF&OC. If they were to approach us with a proposal to make a bid, we would consider the pros and cons,' Jonathan McKinley, deputy secretary for Home Affairs, said.
Fok, who is also a member of the Legislative Council representing arts, sports and culture, refused to be drawn into a discussion on the merits of a joint bid yesterday. He preferred to dwell on a Hong Kong bid.
He said: 'We have been through all this before. The last time we actually made a bid [for the 2006 Games, won by Doha] we didn't have any new facilities ready and our bid was based on promises. That didn't work. We now need the facilities to be in place before we can talk about a fresh bid.'
Work on the promised new sports hub at Kai Tak has yet to start.
It has been proposed that the new sports hub will have a 50,000-seater, state-of-the-art stadium including a retractable roof, plus two other main venues - a 6,000-seater secondary stadium and a 5,000-seat indoor one.
The original date for completion of the facilities in Kowloon East is 2018-19, and the government has insisted that this deadline will be met.
But Fok is not satisfied. 'I hope they will come out soon and state their plans in black and white,' he said.
If this happened, the SF&OC could make an announcement of a fresh bid, probably in November when the OCA General Assembly meets in Macau.
Last year, Legco voted against a motion for HK$6 billion in funding for a bid to host the 2023 event.
Estimated cost, in Hong Kong dollars, of the promised new sports hub at Kai Tak