Hong Kong 'falling behind Singapore' in fight to attract top events
Officials fear Lion City's new multipurpose sports hub will give regional rival a massive advantage
Top Hong Kong cricket officials lamented the government's lack of "dynamism" and support for sport, with Singapore looming as a potential rival to host international events once that city's new sports hub is up and running in April.
"Singapore is really working hard to become the regional focus for so many sports, among them being a potential new headquarters for the International Cricket Council," said Hong Kong Cricket Association chairman Mike Walsh. "We do not seem to have that dynamic here."
The Hong Kong Sixes was cancelled in October because the government's Mega Events Fund turned down an application for HK$5 million to back this year's tournament. While the loss of the high-profile event was a major blow, the game also needs a facility capable of putting on international events, even hosting top teams like England and Pakistan in one-day internationals in the same way Dubai does, and Singapore will do in the future.
HKCA secretary John Cribbin, the local representative on the ICC, added: "They [the Singapore government] are much more serious about supporting sport than ours. They are more receptive to ideas [on how sport can help raise the profile of a city]."
As the Hong Kong government still mulls the best way to finance its proposed HK$19 billion sports complex at Kai Tak, a leading ICC official has said Singapore is poised to become a prime centre for international cricket with the new hub capable of being calibrated to become a 35,000-seat cricket stadium that can host world-class events.
"Location-wise Singapore is a good place. Its government is also keen to support cricket. The ICC board is seriously thinking about relocating to Singapore [from Dubai] and a decision will be made soon," said ICC vice-president Mustafa Kamal, who is to become the president in July.
The ICC recently asked an international consultancy firm to carry out a feasibility study on moving its headquarters from Dubai. Singapore came top of the study, with its new sports hub - which includes a 55,000-seater stadium that can be turned into a cricket oval - a major factor.
Once this state-of-the-art stadium is ready - it is designed to host day-night one-day internationals and Twenty20 internationals with a retractable roof ensuring play at all times - ambitious Singapore Cricket Association president Tunku Imran has suggested "the city can become the capital of the cricket world".
Imran also said: "It is an amazing development, very impressive, one that can offer a lot to the cricket world beyond Singapore".
Walsh said unless Hong Kong got its act together quickly, the city was in danger of falling behind its regional rivals, not only in cricket but in other sports, too.
"It looks like it will be a great addition to Singapore and the region and all credit to them for having the foresight to go ahead with it," Walsh said. "While we here have been 'umming and aahing' for the past several years over something similar for Kai Tak, they have gone ahead and done it."
Apart from cricket, the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union has also been lobbying for Kai Tak to be completed as soon as possible, especially with an eye on hosting some games of the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Jonathan McKinley, deputy secretary for home affairs, recently revealed the financing model for Kai Tak was likely to be decided by next year. Work on the project is only expected to get under way in late 2015. The government has estimated once all the plans are in place, Kai Tak can be ready in three years with a completion date of 2019 - more than five years after the Singapore Sports Hub, by which time that city will have made huge inroads into becoming a true hub for the region.
The Singapore hub will be the only stadium in the world that is custom-built to host soccer, rugby, cricket and athletics events in one venue.