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Kai Tak Sports Park

Why does Hong Kong host a judo event in a cycling velodrome? A new sports park will fix that

Hong Kong sport administrators plan to start lobbying government officials in favour of the planned Kai Tak Sports Park

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 31 May, 2017, 4:42pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 31 May, 2017, 10:46pm

Sports chiefs talked up the prospects of hosting international events such as the Asian Games and Youth Olympics after plans to build the proposed Kai Tak sports park passed a major hurdle on Wednesday.

Construction of the HK$31.9 billion project at the former airport site received a big boost after getting the approval of the Public Works Subcommittee under the Legislative Council despite a razor-thin margin of 18-17 majority.

But the most difficult task is yet to come as the government needs to seek the final approval of the Finance Committee to foot the construction bills.

All Legco members (other than the chairman) are Finance Committee members and the massive budget would easily turn the subject into a political issue under the existing council atmosphere.

Already some members of the Pan-Democrats threatened to use filibustering to stop or delay the process of allowing the government from getting the required financial resources.

Sport officials are desperate for the new sports hub, almost embarrassed that Hong Kong calls itself Asia World’s City while lacking a hi-tech, multi-purpose sports stadium.

Hong Kong Olympic Committee vice-president Pui Kwan-kay, who is also Judo Association president, said he was put on the spot by many of his Asian friends when Hong Kong hosted the Asian Judo Championships in the cycling velodrome in Tseung Kwan O last week.

HK$32 billion Kai Tak sports park plans narrowly approved by Legco

“They could not understand why Hong Kong is a modern city but in terms of sports facility they could not find a proper venue for the regional championships but staged it in a velodrome infield,” he said.

The planned 28-hectare sports park features a 50,000-seat stadium, a 10,000-seat indoor arena, a 5,000-seat sports ground, and other support facilities such as a hotel, offices, dining and public open spaces.

“The sports park is pivotal to our future as we want to move sports to another level by hosting more major international events,” said Olympic Committee vice-president Vivien Lau Chiang-chu.

“With a proper venue of the sports park scale, we can start talking about bringing events like the Youth Olympics or the Asian Games.

“The government has been spending a lot of money on developing our athletes to the highest level and this can be complemented by providing these athletes the opportunity of showcasing their skills in front of the home crowds.”

Lau said the 2023 Youth Olympic Games was still up for grabs after Buenos Aries of Argentina was chosen to stage the multi-sport games next year, while the 2026 Asian Games is still a possibility, although Japan is keen to host that.

“If you want to raise the sports culture of a place, you have to put up major events so that sports can become the talk of the town for people across all sectors, just like what we did with the 2009 East Asian Games,” said Lau.

Sports chief: HK$32b Kai Tak Sports Park ‘no white elephant’ – and Hong Kong can play part in China World Cup with it

“As the Sports Park is so important to us, we are planning for large scale petitions to lobby the Legco members and will also motivate our athletes to stake out our position.”

There are seven Finance Committee meetings left in this Legco year and if the government cannot get it done before it closes in mid-July, they have to wait until December.

Pui said they could not waste more time on the lengthy process of discussion.

“We have been promised the facility for almost 20 years and we are still discussing it,” said Pui, who is also the Football Association vice-chairman. “This can only happen in Hong Kong.

“We lack world-class sports facilities compared to many of our Asian counterparts and we hope the honourable Legco members understand this as it is important for us to move sports forward.”