A SENIOR official has admitted Kai Tak and later Chek Lap Kok could lose passengers and cargo to Macau's $9 billion airport. But Secretary for Economic Services Gordon Siu Kwing-chue, speaking yesterday before Macau's airport was officially opened by Portuguese President Dr Mario Soares, said any impact would be short-lived. 'In the short term, it will relieve part of the pressure at Kai Tak. In the longer term I do see both the Hong Kong market and the Macau sector growing,' he said. 'Macau airport is not just serving Macau itself, but the western part of the Pearl River Delta. There is room for everybody. We hope the visitors using Macau airport will visit Hong Kong and the delta areas at the same time,' he added. About 3,000 people, including Governor Chris Patten and a 50-strong Chinese delegation led by China's Vice-President Rong Yiren, braved bitterly cold winds for the two-hour opening ceremony. The Chinese group included the Vice-Foreign Minister, Tian Zengpei, and the Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office Vice-Director, Wang Fengchao. Another 2,000 people lined the airport approach road and hillsides nearby. The celebrations began as lion dancers took to the runway and an 18-kilometre string of firecrackers was set alight. Dr Soares said Macau would continue to assert its uniqueness. 'It is a place of ethnic and religious tolerance, co-existence, dialogue and fertile exchange between different modes of living, believing and being,' he said. Dr Soares said China should forge better links with the European Union. Mr Patten refused to comment on the ceremonies and would not be drawn on Macau's apparently smoother relations with the Chinese than those with Hong Kong. The Governor's strongest words were reserved for a television reporter who unintentionally hit Mr Patten in the back and neck during the media scramble on the walk back to the terminal building. About 2.7 million passengers are expected to be using the airport by the end of next year. Airline predictions suggest about 15 per cent of traffic on the lucrative Hong Kong-Taiwan route could be lost as a result of Macau's easier access. Air travellers flying between leading Chinese cities and Taipei and Kaohsiung will only have a 15 to 30-minute wait in Macau before continuing their flights on the same aircraft. The Macau airport company chairman, Dr Antonio Pinto, agreed the enclave would gain as a result of growing congestion at Kai Tak, but the aim was not to compete directly with Hong Kong.