Stadium shame: Hong Kong allowed to host China at substandard 1,900-seater basketball stadium
Organisers will spend a lot of money upgrading the Wan Chai facility but the 1,900 seating capacity is still way under international requirements
Hong Kong will host China and two other top teams in the 2019 World Cup basketball qualifiers after the world governing body bowed to the reality that Asia’s so-called events capital cannot provide a stadium to meet Fiba’s requirements.
The 1,900-seat Southorn Stadium in Wan Chai was originally rejected by Fiba as the home venue because it failed seating and lighting requirements, but it has been given a reprieve.
Hong Kong will also entertain South Korea and New Zealand on a home and away basis in group A of the regional qualifiers. The best three teams will qualify for the second stage. The first round of games start on November 23.
“Our hands are tied as we didn’t know until June that we would be playing in the World Cup qualifiers and by that time the Coliseum in Hung Hom had been booked long ago,” said Sally Chan Chau-ping of the Hong Kong Basketball Association.
“With the 3,200-seat Queen Elizabeth Stadium court failing to provide the required space for an official World Cup qualifier, the only possible venue remains to be the Southorn Stadium.”
Chan said the Southorn facility was first ruled out by Fiba because it did not meet the seating capacity requirement (3,000) nor provide sufficient lighting for recording. Other support facilities such as a media room, doping centre and administration office were also unavailable.
“We have to spend a lot of money on upgrading the facility to meet these requirements but there is nothing we can do about the seating capacity. Fortunately, Fiba understands our difficulties and approved it after lengthy discussions,” said Chan.
The only other option was to play the home games at a neutral venue.
The home match against China on February 26 next year will be a crowd puller following the rivalry in other sports such as soccer.
China will use the 13,000-seat 2014 Youth Olympic Games Gymnasium in Nanjing for the qualifiers while South Korea will host their games at the 6,400-seat Goyang Gymnasium, one of the venues for the 2014 Asian Games and the home venue of K-League club Goyang Orion Orions.
Former basketball association senior executive Sam Ho Wai-hing said he was “ashamed” a proper venue could not be found in Hong Kong.
“Queen Elizabeth Stadium and the Southorn Stadium are only good for domestic competitions and I am sure Fiba will be surprised there is not a venue of international standard in a city where the government always hails it as an events capital of Asia,” he said.
“Indeed, the Coliseum also provides no warm-up facility which is a must for international games. Hopefully, the venue problem can be solved with the completion of the [Kai Tak] Sport Parks in the next couple of years.”