Is it a white elephant or a vital piece of infrastructure to maintain Hong Kong's status as "Asia's World City"? Essentially those are the arguments about the long-delayed and controversial Kai Tak Multi-Purpose Sports Complex (MPSC) project, which took another blow in recent weeks. As the government defends the plan, the minutes of a May 6 meeting of the public works subcommittee of the Finance Committee of the Legislative Council illustrate - in sometimes graphic detail - the depth of opposition to the plans in some quarters. Lawmakers branded each other "lackeys" and "scumbags" as they fought over plans to approve HK$62.7 million to enable pre-construction work to begin. Twenty-one voted for the funding and 14 against, among them Albert Chan Wai-yip, of pan-democratic party People Power. "The site for developing the proposed MPSC should be used for providing residential units," he insisted. The sports community breathed a sigh of relief when he was voted down - although the funding still has not been formally approved, since it was taken off the agenda at a box-ticking meeting of the Finance Committee, with the government worried pan-democrat filibustering would delay approval of funding on another item on the agenda. The sports community has been calling for years for the Kai Tak facility to be built. The plans include a 50,000-seater multi-purpose main stadium with retractable roof, an ancillary sports ground with seating for at least 5,000, an indoor stadium with a main arena with 4,000 seats and a secondary arena with 400 seats. But the longer delays go on, the more chance opponents will get their way. Angry scenes at that Legco meeting underline the fight the government has on its hands. Among the questions raised were transport issues, if the facility would be underused, how many sports events would be able to draw a full house, why build it in the heart of the city, and why is the government leaning toward a design-build-operate formula. While the public might support the development of a mega sports venue, many issues remained unsolved Albert Chan, People Power The Labour Party's Lee Cheuk-yan said it "might turn out to be a white elephant" and asked how many days in a year would the stadium be in use. The League of Social Democrats' Leung Kwok-hung, better known as Long Hair, said it was "rare in other cities for large-scale sports venues to be developed in the vicinity of residential areas" and asked if the government had conducted security assessments. Albert Chan called for the motion to be adjourned - another delaying tactic. "While the public might support the development of a mega sports venue many issues remained unsolved including its cost-effectiveness and location," he said, before a heated exchange with Chan Kin-por, the Finance Committee vice-chairman. Albert Chan charged that some people were "lackeys in Legco for approving whatever funding proposals were submitted by the administration irrespective of the cost-effectiveness of the project and the needs of society". In the minutes record: "Chan Kin-por said that the public were well aware of who were lackeys in Legco and people should beware of scumbags such as Mr Albert Chan." Both parties refused to withdraw their statements, although Chan Kin-por said he would revise it to "all those who filibustered were scumbags". He then stormed out of the meeting in protest against the "scumbag-like behaviour". The frequent use of the Hong Kong Stadium is restricted due to the constraints posed by the noise limits The government Among the charges against the project is that it will be little used - Hong Kong Stadium was only used on 19 days for sports events in 2014. But the government insists that restrictions posed by noise pollution is the main reason for that, and the retractable roof on the new stadium would solve that problem. "The frequent use of the Hong Kong Stadium is restricted due to the constraints posed by the noise limits and the need to close the venue for regular maintenance in order to provide a good playing surface for football and rugby," said the government in a paper submitted to Legco. "The main stadium at Kai Tak will be able to overcome these two constraints with the provision of a retractable roof that helps contain noise and protect the playing surface during adverse weather conditions." In its paper to Legco asking for the HK$62.7 million pre-construction approval, the government pointed out that Hong Kong had fallen behind "neighbouring cities" in Asia. "At present, major sports events are held primarily in the Hong Kong Stadium, the Hong Kong Coliseum and the Queen Elizabeth Stadium. As these facilities were built (or redeveloped) in the 1980s to 1990s, they are falling behind the standards expected by international athletes and event organisers," says the government. "The development of the MPSC will improve our competitiveness when seeking to host major sports events, particularly in the light of developments in neighbouring cities which have developed or are developing modern sports venues." Last year the Hong Kong Football Association hired the stadium on 16 days for both domestic and international matches. The other three days were for the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens. In 2013, it was used on 31 days and in 2012 33 days. There are also worries about the small number of events which drew a full house. From 2012 to 2014 only four events (13 match days) drew a capacity 40,000 crowd at Hong Kong Stadium. They were the Hong Kong Sevens, the Kitchee v Arsenal Challenge Cup (2012), Barclays Asia Trophy (2013) and the Manchester United Asian Tour match (2013). Chan Kin-por said the public were well aware of who were lackeys in Legco and people should beware of scumbags such as Mr Albert Chan Legco minutes Three other events drew a crowd of over 15,000 - the British and Irish Lions v Asian Barbarians match (2013), the Kitchee v Paris St Germain match (2014) and the Hong Kong v Argentina match (2014) to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the HKFA. The government says the new facility will provide an opportunity to host new events like the annual International Champions Cup featuring top soccer teams from Europe, top-class international rugby, motor sport and international tennis. "We also anticipate a significant growth in the number of non-sporting events like music concerts, music festivals and multimedia events," the government stated. It is planned that while facilities which will be used by the general public - the indoor sports centre, the outdoor sports ground and other outdoor facilities within the park - would be run by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, the future operator of the main stadium would not only be involved in the management but also the promotion of the venue. We also anticipate a significant growth in the number of non-sporting events like music concerts, music festivals and multimedia events The government Other than the three main stadiums, the 20-hectare site will include office space (at least 10,000 square metres most probably to house sporting associations), commercial space (around 32,000 square metres), a park with jogging trails, children's play area and tai chi areas, a cycling trail, and landscaped gardens. "As well as helping to alleviate the shortage of public sports facilities, support elite athletes' needs and provide new venues for hosting major sports events, on a broader front, the MPSC will also provide further impetus to the Kai Tak development and regeneration of East Kowloon, as well as emphasise Hong Kong's image as a dynamic city with a diverse range of attractions for local residents and visitors alike," insists the government. But will it get its way? In 2012, an adviser to the administration suggested that the sports hub be relocated to make way for more housing, a view which was considered before pressure from the sports sector brought it to an end, and the cost of the project keeps mushrooming. What was initially estimated to cost between HK$18 billion and HK$19 billion has now gone up to HK$25 billion. The cost alone of building the main stadium with a roof will cost HK$7.6 billion. Such huge figures will serve to create doubts even in the minds of those who support the MPSC.