The sport of BMX soared in popularity in Hong Kong when athlete Steven Wong snatched a gold medal for the city in the 2009 East Asian Games.
Just three years later, the venue where he triumphed is struggling to survive because of a lack of funds. The Jockey Club International BMX Park in Kwai Chung, the only international-standard track in the city, opened just before the Games began. It was built with a grant of HK$20 million from the club to boost development of the sport, and is run by the Cycling Association.
To the shock of cyclists, the park was closed for two weeks this month. It has reopened - but only on Friday evenings, Saturdays and Sundays for now.
About 30 enthusiasts demonstrated outside the association's headquarters in Causeway Bay yesterday demanding resumption of full services.
Among them was New Zealander and Hong Kong resident Donna MacIntosh, who said her two boys, aged eight and six, had been deprived of training time.
The two finished in the top 10 in the New Zealand national championships for their age groups last year and will compete again at the end of March.
"The New Zealand nationals are 10 weeks away and they can't train every day," she said. Opening hours aside, she said, fees and rules set by the association deterred newcomers.
The association charges HK$40 per half-day session, and the bill would have come to nearly HK$5,000 a month if she took her children there daily.
It also required users of the park to have a BMX licence, a rule that scared off many people, MacIntosh said. "Every track in New Zealand is free. Now they are taking it as a business entity rather than a sports entity," her husband, Steven Meek, said.
Herman Hu Shao-ming, who quit as the association's president yesterday, said the self-financing venue cost more than HK$2 million a year to run as it received no government subsidies. In principle, it could not be closed because of a 21-year land licence pact with the government that began in 2008, he said.
Newly elected chairman Leung Hung-tak vowed to resume full services in the coming months. "We will not close the park," he said. "We have to identify additional resources to maintain its services … We will also invite users to join the park management committee."
The association would talk to government departments, business sponsors and individual donors for their support, he said.
The association's minutes of meetings show it gave HK$3.5 million and the chairman of its management committee, believed to be Hu, put in HK$3.85 million, to pay for costs in the last two years. The park's monthly income was stated as about HK$30,000.
Wong won gold at the 2009 East Asian Games and 2010 Asian Games, popularising the sport of racing bicycles on motocross-style dirt tracks.