• Thu
  • Dec 25, 2014
  • Updated: 8:58am
PUBLISHED : Monday, 25 March, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 25 March, 2013, 9:02am

'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


Tim Noonan has been crafting uniquely provocative columns for the SCMP and SMP for more than a decade. A native of Canada, he has over 20 years’ experience in Asia and has been a regular contributor to a number of prominent publications, including Time magazine, Forbes, The New York Times, The International Herald Tribune and The Independent.

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.



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can't help but agree. am an american. live in singapore. been to the sevens. It's time the Lion City gives Hong Kong a run for its money.
It's called the free market. Something which I'm so sure all Hong Kong residents understand very well.
Not sure why the writer calls Singapore's "lust" as a ravenous stupor.
How did he get that impression?
I would prefer to call it ambition.
Singapore has been constantly voted as the city with the best airport in the world, the easiest place in the world to do business, top sports city, the favourite city for expats, and a whole list of other accolades.
Like Hong Kong, it has top notch hotels, and more are sprouting up across the city.
It's only natural for a truly global city like Singapore to host a world class sports event like the Sevens in its spanking new stadium.
Afterall, aren't we living in a dog-eat-dog world?
A concept that I'm sure all Hong Kong residents understand full well as well.
And as far as I understand, funding for such major events typically come from both Singapore's proactive government as well as the private sector.
No different from how the Sports Hub was financed as well.
Perhaps this is one area that maybe the Hong Kongers do not understand very well - private and public partnership.
In case the author is unaware, there is a thriving private sector here in finance, real estate, shipping, logistics and whole slew of industries.
John Adams
Amen and AMEN !
And RIP the wonderful open back north stand where one could stand, drink and watch the game out in the open instead of under the awnings covering the outlet shops. And also RIP the north big display screen .
NO welcome to the awful dark blue monster boxes on the north stand, which , quite apart from destroying the wonderful open back north stand and its screen, were a living eyesore monstrosity and a black mark on all the sponsors - vampire squids all of them - who dared to use those boxes (most of which were empty until sunday afternoon apart from a few red-suited goons )
Have the Sevens and the HKRFU descended so low in their lust for $ ?
Shame on you !
What kind of impression did that leave on the thousands of international guests who flew in just ( JUST !) for the weekend from such distant places as Russia, South Africa, Japan, Brazil, and England - judging by the handful of guys and gals sitting around me in the few remaining lower level open stands .
Shame, shame and SHAME !


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