Hong Kong’s home of track and field set to be scrapped as outgoing CY Leung announces Wan Chai redevelopment
Government plans to scrap the historic sports ground as part of an extension of the adjacent Convention and Exhibition Centre is greeted with deep disappointment by athletics officials
Government plans to scrap Wan Chai Sports Ground, the home of Hong Kong track and field, have been greeted with deep disappointment by athletics officials.
Built in 1979 when the Wan Chai reclamation area was still an unpopular location, the facility was the first international-standard sports venue in the area and has witnessed generations of athletes perform, breaking many Hong Kong records, including Tsui Chi-ho’s men’s 100 metre and Tang Yik-chun’s 200m marks.
In his final policy address on Wednesday, chief executive Leung Chun-ying proposed comprehensive redevelopment of the site in 2019 at the earliest as an extension of the adjacent Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Apart from convention and exhibition venues, the development proposal would comprise “stylish and novel recreation and sports facilities” as well as “other necessary community facilities for the district, with a view to optimising land use”, but the athletics track will be removed.
“We were never consulted about the plan and this is very disappointing,” said Simon Yeung Sai-mo, senior vice chairman of the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association (HKAAA).
“The facility has been associated with Hong Kong athletics since it was built and is one of only three track and field venues that allow training for our 9,000 registered members. It is also hugely popular among students due to the interschool competitions and its convenient location.
“When the facility was built decades ago, the Wan Chai reclamation area was so remote that no one wanted to go there and that’s why they constructed an athletics venue there. Now it has become part of a bustling commercial area and many of our overseas visitors have expressed admiration for the facility.
“If you study the sports development section [of the address], our sport benefits nothing from the so-called new facility projects in the next five years, but then they take away our most popular venue. I don’t think this is the way the government should support sport.”
Former Hong Kong 110m hurdle and 400m hurdle record holder Tang Hon-sing simply opposed the plan, saying the government does not athletics seriously.
“I have a very strong sentiment with the Wan Chai ground as I trained there since I was a young kid before moving to the Sports Institute in Sha Tin as an elite athlete,” said Tang, now the director of coaching of the HKAAA.
“I set both my records there and have a lot of memories there. It’s not only me, but many generations of Hong Kong athletes who share the same good memory.
“I’m sure the government can find other sites for exhibition and convention venues in Hong Kong as they always talk about diversification. In fact, if they want to do it in Wan Chai North, it will pose a big problem on the traffic there which is already very heavy.”
Tang said he would urge the HKAAA council to write to government to halt the plan, and may take further action should they move forward with the proposal.
The government said the Trade Development Council that operates the Convention and Exhibition Centre would conduct a feasibility study on the proposal and would consult with the district council and other stakeholders.
Secretary for Home Affairs Lau Kong-wah said they also had plans to renovate the Hong Kong Stadium by adding a running track upon completion of the Kai Tak Sports Park, which is estimated to be 2022 at the earliest.
However, Lau remained evasive if they would delay removing Wan Chai Sports Ground in 2019 as per the Policy Address in order to avoid a gap.