'Super Bowl of Rugby' suffering in a stone-age stadium

It's a digital throwback but we'll have to live with it for the next six years at least so a temporary fix will have to do

PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 March, 2013, 9:02am

We are living in the digital age. Right, and water is wet. Point being? Point being that Hong Kong has not completely arrived in the digital age. This uber-modern shopping hub with the best airport in the world featuring some of the most stylish and luxurious hotels with the most up-to-the-minute amenities imaginable, not to mention THE self-appointed "Events Capital of Asia", has officially been exposed as being more stone age then new age.

When the Beach Boys mounted a makeshift stage in front of the North Stand on Saturday afternoon it was a performance long on emotion and enjoyment but short on high fidelity and visibility. And it certainly was no fault of the Beach Boys, or the production team that put on the show.

Hong Kong Stadium simply does not have the capability to properly host a top-rate act. The sound system and jumbotron screen capabilities are an antiquated albatross of a joke.

Of course the Beach Boys were not particularly bothered. Long-time band member Bruce Johnston was smitten by the experience and called the event the "Super Bowl of rugby." That may have been true at one point, but not anymore.

The Super Bowl is a multi-billion-dollar spectacle which pioneered the art of music at big sporting events by having the likes of Michael Jackson, U2, The Rolling Stones and The Who play at half-time.

And while this year's game in New Orleans had to endure an embarrassing 35-minute blackout, it was not because they did not have a state-of-the-art system. It was because of an electrical malfunction of that system. The difference at the Hong Kong Sevens is that while they may have the desire to elevate the genre of live acts during the event, they simply do not have the physical ability to do so.

Sadly, all this talk of a new stadium is just that: talk. Bureaucratic inertia has doomed any reasonable timetable on the much-discussed new facility at Kai Tak and even the most optimistic folks are saying construction will not start for at least two more years while completion is likely six years off.

We have to deal with the simple truth that the cavalry is not coming over the hill anytime soon. This is the stadium we are stuck with for the foreseeable future so let's foresee the future. Start with the dated dual jumbotrons, tear that up and build a huge new digital screen. Rip out as much of the sound and electrical circuitry as you can and replace it with new digital equipment - you know, like the industry standard. If they won't build a new stadium, they could at least fix this one, even if it is seen as a somewhat temporary fix. At my age, six or seven years is hardly temporary.

I would assume with an overhaul of the logistics that we can also find a way to accommodate the featured musical act playing at midfield as many have suggested. And, finally, bearing in mind that this will be our stadium for a while, we will have to find a way to be at peace with the newly erected corporate suites in the North Stand.

Ok, I will have to find a way to be at peace with them. I don't like them for a number of reasons but primary amongst them is safety. However, after a frightening crush of humanity on Saturday, I am told union officials took matters into their own hands - and out of stadium security's - opened more exit and entrance doors to better accommodate passage and the crisis was dealt with.

It's a stroke of luck that any serious harm was averted and, since I have also been told that the corporate boxes in the North Stand will likely be back next year, lessons learned this year must be applied next.

There are representatives from both Singapore and Japan here this weekend diligently studying this event in the hope of not just copying it but surpassing it.

Singapore is in a ravenous stupor for big events with a pro-active government willing to finance that lust. Next year their state-of-the-art stadium will open and they will be hoping to add a Sevens World Series event sooner rather than later. We need to keep the event we have. But until we can at least do major renovation on our house, don't assume anything is safe regardless of history or tradition. That's how things work in the digital age.