Hong Kong needs to show more commitment to win sporting events
The new sports park at Kai Tak, due to open in 2022 at the earliest, may raise our profile but extra effort is required if we are to host top competitions such as the Asian Games
Hongkongers are generally not known for being enthusiastic about fitness and sport. Nor does the city stand out as a hub for hosting international sporting competitions. While we do have a few signature events, such as the rugby sevens each year, the government and the sports sector seem to have become dispirited ever since we lost in the 2006 Asian Games bid, our very first attempt to hold a mega global sporting event. The lethargy sits oddly with our claim to be Asia’s world city.
We are, indeed, lagging far behind some Asian cities in terms of an events portfolio. Hong Kong only scored 1.30 out of 20 in this respect, according to a report compiled by financial services giant KPMG. Tokyo, which will host the Olympic Games in 2020, topped with full scores while Singapore, Shanghai and Kuala Lumpur trailed at 9.82, 3.88 and 2.51 respectively. But the city secured relatively high scores in infrastructure, people and services, security and event support. The overall score was 56.02 out of 100, compared with Tokyo’s 73.22 and Singapore’s 70.32. So there certainly is a good basis for Hong Kong to take on more events.
A further shot in the arm will come when a new sports park opens in Kai Tak. Scheduled for opening in 2022 at the earliest, the HK$32 billion complex comprises a 50,000-seat stadium with a retractable roof, multi-purpose indoor sports centre to seat up to 10,000 and public sports ground. Upon completion, it should overcome the inadequacies of the existing stadiums, Hong Kong Coliseum and other scattered sports facilities. This will put the city in a better position to vie for more elite events.
The stadium, of course, is not just aimed at attracting international tournaments and championships. Under the government plan, the 28-hectare site is also designed to develop elite and community sports. Such a three-pronged approach is actually complementary. Hosting top events will give city athletes the chance to showcase their skills in front of both international and local spectators, which in turn will help promote wider community participation in sport. A richer event portfolio will also enhance our international profile and exposure. The economic benefits of 20 sport-related events held in the city were estimated to have reached HK$2.1 billion, according to the KPMG report.
It is good to hear that the possibility of revisiting a bid for the Asian Games has not been ruled out by Commissioner for Sports Yeung Tak-keung. But, as he conceded, the sports park will still lack facilities for some Games events. It can only serve as a catalyst for change, and deeper commitment and wider reforms are needed if we are to go the extra yard.