Hong Kong Sevens provides a guide for what new Kai Tak stadium should be
Deciding on submissions for the new Kai Tak Sports Park needs to get the mix right, and as the ongoing success of the rugby event shows, it is more than just being about sport
The success of the HSBC/Cathay Pacific Hong Kong Sevens long ago proved we are able to host a world-class sporting event. It fuelled demand for a better venue than that at So Kon Po and work will start this year on a stadium at Kai Tak. The harbour-side location is spectacular and so is the HK$32 billion price tag.
But as the Sevens has shown, sports at their best are about more than just players on a field. If Hong Kong is to become a draw for high-standard competition, the mindset has to change and we need to start thinking now about which fixtures we want to attract or create.
Fortunately, we have the Sevens as a guide. From humble beginnings in 1976, it evolved into a literal game-changer for rugby union, creating a new form of competition and financing model. Quickly, it also became about more than sport, attracting a diverse crowd from around the world that also wanted a good time.
The carnival atmosphere at last week’s event, with musical acts and colourfully costumed spectators enjoying beer and loudly cheering every point, proclaimed that this is equally about entertainment. The Sevens joining a campaign to fight child trafficking and counter underage drinking also showed commitment and a social conscience.
Authorities have to keep such aspects in mind as they go over submissions for the Kai Tak Sports Park, which they will decide upon in July. The aims for the complex to be completed in 2022 or 2023 have been laid out – promoting “sports for all”, hosting major international competitions, providing a home venue for local athletes, meeting training and competition needs for students and creating a large, landscaped park for community enjoyment. That is in line with the findings of a public survey, which envisaged the 28-hectare site as a venue for sports, recreation, tourism and entertainment. Getting the right mix through what the complex will host and the facilities it provides is important.
There will, of course, be a need for sporting fields and courts with the best-available infrastructure and equipment. But the Sevens also teaches that success lies in more than planning and organisation, as shown by the displays of sporting spirit and camaraderie of the players and the enthusiasm of the tens of thousands of locals and tourists. The party atmosphere over the three days has as much to do with the rugby as the whole entertainment package on offer.
The Sevens is likely to be the anchor event for the new stadium. It and other international competitions require a wide range of quality catering options. The visual backdrop of the harbour and Hong Kong Island will make for a special venue. Getting it right involves making sure the interactive experience sports people and spectators expect nowadays is delivered.