City close to taking HK$95m plunge for world swimming championships

Top official confident of securing sponsorship deal that could see Hong Kong host the short-course world championships by 2016

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 09 October, 2012, 4:08am

Top swimming official Ronnie Wong Man-chiu is confident of organising a HK$95 million budget by next Monday to enter a bid for the 2016 or 2018 world short-course championships.

Wong said the Hong Kong Swimming Association was talking to a number of potential title sponsors to pitch in a maximum of HK$30 million.

"We are talking about a very large amount of money but it is not impossible," said Wong, the association's honorary secretary, yesterday. "If everything goes according to plan, we can announce some good news later this week." If the bid is successful, the championships would be held at the Hong Kong Coliseum, with a special water tank brought in from Italy at a cost of more than HK$10 million. Short-course swimming features a 25-metre long pool instead of the 50-metre pools used in the Olympics and world championships.

"The world championships has a big marketing value as the biennial event will feature the best swimmers from around the world," said Wong. "If we win the bid, there will be plenty of time for promotion and sponsorships. It will provide good value for money."

Wong said although the title sponsor would only be required to contribute a third of the budget, there would be other income to guarantee the event would at least break even.

"Half of the expenditure can be offset by ticket sales, ground advertisements, broadcasting rights and other support such as air fares, board and accommodation," said Wong. "We are also looking for government support with funding from the Mega Events Fund.

"The world championships would be a four-day event at the Hong Kong Coliseum which can accommodate a big audience. Also, we would expect 700 swimmers, and if we also took into account their support staff and family members who would come here, there will be around 4,000 visitors, bringing significant spending to the economy."

With a 12,000-seat capacity, about 8,000 tickets per day would be offered to the public. The remaining seats would be reserved for world governing body Fina and other organisers.

Hong Kong staged the short-course event at the Coliseum in 1999, with Wong also instrumental in securing hosting rights.

"We would have to set up a big water tank inside the Coliseum like we did last time," he said. "It is not cheap even if the facility is provided free by Fina because we still have to pay for the transportation cost to bring it in from Italy and the set-up cost. Just setting up the water tank will cost us more than HK$10 million."

China and the United States are also interested in staging the event in 2016, Wong believes.

The world short-course championships is the second largest event run by Fina. The next event will take place in Istanbul from December 12-16, with Doha hosting the 2014 edition.

Last year, Hong Kong bid for the 2015 or 2017 world long-course championships, but lost out to Kazan in Russia and then Guadalajara in Mexico because of the lack of a suitable venue. The Kowloon Park pool and the renovated Victoria Park pool are not big enough to accommodate the required number of spectators.