Demolishing Wan Chai Sports Ground will devastate athletics, says HKAAA chief

Kwan Kee says the government assured them of a ‘suitable and comparable venue’ if they removed the home of athletics since 1979

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 25 January, 2017, 5:53pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 25 January, 2017, 11:01pm

Demolishing the Wan Chai Sports Ground would have a devastating long-term effect on athletics, the head of the HKAAA said in a strongly worded letter to the government yesterday.

Kwan Kee, chairman of the Hong Kong Amateur Athletics Association, also said the government would be reneging on an assurance that the facility would not be taken unless there was a “suitable and comparable venue to replace it”.

Kwan was reacting to an announcement in Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying’s Policy Address last week that, given its proximity to the Convention and Exhibition Centre, plans were afoot to comprehensively redevelop the stadium in 2019, removing the track.

The stadium has been considered the home of athletics in the city since its opening in 1979.

“Our association was shocked, disappointed and most concerned about the government’s announcement,” Kwan wrote in a letter addressed to Home Affairs Bureau head Lau Kwong-wah.

“As the government is well aware, our association has long been asking for another dedicated and exclusive sports ground in additional to the Wan Chai Sports Ground for the proper development of our sport.”

When the demolition of the Wan Chai Sports Ground was first touted a few years ago, Kwan said, the then Leisure and Cultural Services director, Betty Fung Ching Suk-yee, had given assurances that it would not happen unless there was a suitable and comparable venue to replace it immediately.

“Without any prior discussion or consultation with us, it now appears from the Policy Address that the government does not intend to keep to this assurance,” Kwan said.

“The Wan Chai Sports Ground is where our grassroots and intermediate-level athletes train, run, jump and throw, day in and day out, Monday to Friday.

“Compared to other sports stadia in Hong Kong under the existing arrangement, Wan Chai Sports Ground is unique and irreplaceable.

Kwan said there were more than 9,000 registered athletes of the association and with the exception of the Hong Kong athletics team (around 100 athletes) and other elite athletes who can train at Tseung Kwan O Sports Ground, the remaining 8,000 athletes have only one venue, the Wan Chai Sports Ground.

“Given that it is the policy of the government to promote sports in community, support elite sports and maintain Hong Kong as a centre of major international sports events, we urge the government to respect and support our sport, the athletes who have chosen and committed to our sport and the youngsters who may have aspiration to participate and compete in our sport and reconsider its stance to take away the only dedicated and exclusive venue from us,” said Kwan.