Opportunities slipping by

The longer it takes for officialdom to come up with a concrete plan for the Kai Tak site the more development chances we miss

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 21 June, 2014, 9:36pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 22 June, 2014, 12:08am

Pakistan cricket's hopes of ending their nomadic life and returning home were dashed by last week's brazen attack at Karachi airport by the Taliban. The country's busiest airport was stormed by 10 militants whose aim was to hijack a plane and hold its passengers as hostages.

Before the attack, there were whispers that cricketing ties would be re-established at home, with countries like Sri Lanka and Bangladesh saying they might be amenable to touring Pakistan. That is very unlikely to happen following the atrocity which left at least 34 people dead.

I bring this up to underline the opportunities being lost by Hong Kong to host international sporting events due to the lack of facilities. While we don't wish to benefit from the misfortunes of others, Hong Kong could have offered to host Pakistan in a "home" series if they had a viable ground.

Pakistan use the United Arab Emirates as their home venue now, but it won't be long before the new Singapore Sports Hub in Kallang will be hosting international cricket matches

A few weeks ago, Hong Kong Cricket Association president Rodney Miles revealed plans are in the pipeline to establish a "home for cricket". He said there were short-, medium- and long-term goals.

The long-term plan is to include cricket in the blueprint for the proposed Kai Tak Sports Complex and its 50,000-seater venue.

Imagine this was ready. Pakistan use the United Arab Emirates as their home venue now, but it won't be long before the new Singapore Sports Hub in Kallang will be hosting international cricket matches.

If Hong Kong had its own showpiece stadium, we could also have tried to attract major teams to play here. Imagine India v Pakistan in Hong Kong.

It makes more sense too now that we are part of the ODI (one-day international) family. Hong Kong could play a triangular or quadrangular with other associate nations like Ireland and Afghanistan, together with Pakistan.

Pakistan have been keen supporters of developing the game in China. Surely they would not be averse to coming to Hong Kong, the gateway to the mainland, to help nurture the sport.

All this falls into the category of "what-ifs", but it once again goes to prove the urgency of getting the Kai Tak venue up and running. Six years from now - 2020 being the projected date of completion - these opportunities might have slipped by.

Kai Tak would also give the Hong Kong Sixes a new home. Miles has suggested the ancillary stadium with around 5,000 fixed seats and the capability to add another 5,000 temporary seats could be the "ideal venue" for the Sixes.

The government has asked the association for its reasons why cricket should be included as a sport at Kai Tak. There is no more compelling reason than the fact that it could showcase Hong Kong to the world.

The Sixes has done that in the past. Let's hope the Sixes will still be a viable concern by the time Kai Tak is built and ready.

There was encouraging news that the government will stick to its promise made during the ICC annual conference in Hong Kong a few years ago and provide cricket a venue - Whitehead in Ma On Shan.

This is the medium-term goal with plans to build an international-size ground at the former detention centre for Vietnamese boat people. This site is big enough for two medium-sized grounds, which Miles says can come together when Hong Kong hosts ODIs or longer first-class matches against the elite countries from the associate nations.

The government has plans to build a sports park at Whitehead to also include baseball, cycling and possibly ice sports. But cricket will take pride of place. Unfortunately, here too, things won't get under way right away, with work expected to start only in 2017 as there is a car park on the site.

Perhaps the car park operators have a lease until 2017, but while Miles is pushing for things to happen, he is also resigned to the fact that the wheels of progress usually move slowly. "Sadly we won't get the site until 2017," said Miles. Yet he is happy things are moving in the right direction for the game. Together with the short-term solution - a derelict landfill site in Gin Drinkers Bay in Kwai Chung - which might be ready later this year, there are reasons for cricket to be optimistic.

Still, it would be nice to have been able to pick up the phone and invite the Pakistan Cricket Board to use Hong Kong as a "home" ground right away.