Hong Kong must think before taking World Beach Games plunge
- The city’s Olympic Committee is planning to bid for the event, but it should explore the matter thoroughly and ensure costs do not outweigh the benefits
A hallmark of an international city is being able to host events that have a worldwide following. Hong Kong has long done that in the sporting arena and each year draws thousands of athletes for competitions in a wide range of disciplines. It is therefore not surprising that the city’s Olympic Committee is planning to bring the World Beach Games here, estimating they will attract more than 10,000 visitors and cost between HK$300 million and HK$400 million to stage. The idea is worth considering, but has to be thoroughly explored before a bid is made to ensure costs do not outweigh the benefits.
Beaches do not come to mind when thinking of Hong Kong. But while the city does not have the wide stretches of sand and surf associated with Southeast Asian resorts, Australia, Hawaii, California, Brazil and South Africa, it does have an impressive variety of beaches. Famously, our only Olympic gold medallist, windsurfer Lee Lai-shan, trained for the 1996 Atlanta Games off Cheung Chau’s Kwun Yam Wan. There are dozens more, ranging from the highly developed sands of Repulse Bay to the wilder Tai Long Wan Beach in Sai Kung and Cheung Sha Beach on Lantau Island.
It is inevitable that the city has an avid beach sports community, a prerequisite for hosting the Games. Apart from wind and board surfers, beach volleyball and handball both have a strong followings. But there are few world-class competitors and Hong Kong lacks facilities at an international level and potential venues are served by narrow roads. There is an added complication; the Games are a new concept and the inaugural event will be held in the US city of San Diego next year. Should the Hong Kong 2021 bid be successful, it would be only the second city to host the event.
For now, estimates have to be taken lightly. Until the Games are held in San Diego, a city with a highly developed water sports infrastructure, their success cannot be properly gauged. We have an impressive track record at staging international events, including golf, tennis, rugby, squash, badminton and marathons. The government should not leap into supporting the idea until research has been carried out and credible calculations of the benefits made. Our reputation and image are at stake.