From making the world's biggest drum to holding a glitzy dinner in the airport's departures hall, there has been no shortage of ideas aimed at rebuilding Hong Kong's international image in the wake of Sars. But the one glamorous event which would really put us back on the world map remains in doubt. Officials are still considering whether it is worth parting with the $20 million-plus required to lure Spanish soccer giants Real Madrid here for a pre-season match in August. The value of bringing the team to Hong Kong soared this week when they signed superstar David Beckham, whose appeal now transcends the mere kicking of a football around a pitch. The sight of 'Becks' making one of his first appearances in a Real Madrid shirt at Hong Kong Stadium would constitute a big sporting coup for this city. It would not only create intense excitement for our many football fans, it would attract international attention and send out the message that Hong Kong is back in action. In PR terms, it might be considered something rather bigger than government plans to lure world leaders to stopover on their way to the Apec forum in Bangkok. But attracting the world's top sports stars to Hong Kong is not as easy as it once was. Beijing and Tokyo are already looking forward to hosting Real Madrid for matches on their Asian tour. Hong Kong, even if it is prepared to pay the sponsors' hefty cash demands, will have to battle it out with Shanghai, Seoul, Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok for the third slot. One of the problems we have long faced is the lack of appropriate venues. Real Madrid, if they come, would perform before a capacity crowd of 40,000, a respectable enough attendance. But many fans would miss out. Tickets for the visit of top English team Liverpool next month are expected to be snapped up. However, Hong Kong is better equipped to host football matches than it is to cope with many other sporting events. The recent embarrassment of the Hong Kong Flame Dragons basketball team having to play a national league game in Shenzhen because no local venue was considered appropriate is one example. Facilities for other sports such as athletics and tennis also need to be improved. If Hong Kong is to attract international sporting events, it needs a multi-sports stadium in which to stage them. The idea of building one on the old Kai Tak airport warrants urgent attention. Involving the private sector could help ease the burden on the government's coffers. And the benefits would be substantial. Securing a prestigious competition would be a boost for the whole community, increasing interest and participation in sport in Hong Kong, helping the development of home-grown stars, and attracting tourists. But our facilities must first be improved. Hosting China's National Games in 2009 would provide a tantalising target.