Relief for Hong Kong track and field community as Wan Chai Sports Ground saved the chop – for now
Athletics facility is the only one on Hong Kong Island and has widespread support, says association chief
Hong Kong’s track and field community on Wednesday welcomed the government’s decision to put the Wan Chai Sports Ground redevelopment plan on hold, although the future of the city facility remains unclear.
In her first policy address, chief executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor said the government had decided, for the time being, it would not touch the Wan Chai Sports Ground as intended under the Leung Chun-ying administration.
Instead, it would demolish and redevelop the three government buildings next to the Convention and Exhibition Centre in Wan Chai North into a new wing that can be connected to and integrated with the existing centre.
Simon Yeung Sai-mo, senior vice-chairman of the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association, said the new development was positive.
“There has been a lack of track and field training facilities for many years and we were surprised when the previous government made such a decision by closing the venue for commercial use,” he said.
“The new government at least is willing to listen to the stakeholders – it was not only us but also the community who was against the original plan.
“In the long run, we would consider moving out of Wan Chai if the government could provide alternative training facilities on Hong Kong Island, but we know this will take time.”
Yeung said the Wan Chai facility was one of only three designated training grounds for the sport, the others being in Tseung Kwan O and Sham Shui Po.
“We hope the government can open more public facilities for the training of our athletes as you can see there is none in New Territories West at the moment,” said Yeung.
“We have developed some good athletes who have inspired more potential stars in the sport but facilities are always a problem.”
Meanwhile, the chief executive also announced HK$130 million would be set aside over a period of five years for ball games played by teams. They are baseball, basketball, handball, hockey, ice hockey, softball, volleyball and water polo.
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The government noted these sports are popular among young people but require more resources to enhance their chance of achieving good results.
Choi Fong-yue, a former Hong Kong basketballer and now assistant manager of professional team Eastern, hopes this could set a new direction for sports funding.
“Before, your results decided your level of funding support but this is the first time team sports get additional support without considering your performance,” he said. “This is a new direction, [but] of course it may not help too much with that amount of financial support for eight team sports.
“Basketball has the potential to do well in Asia as my former team Regal won the Asian Club Championship in 2000. We hope this is the first step to lifting the sport to the highest level in the region.”
The scheme will provide additional funding for the relevant national sports associations to formulate and implement training programmes for Hong Kong to compete in the Asian Games or Winter Asian Games.
Funding support will also be offered to individual athletes, with the aim of enhancing the performance of these sports progressively and increasing their chances of attaining elite status in the future.
Rugby sevens is currently a tier A sport at the Sports Institute and is therefore not included on the list, while soccer already has the support of the government.
These eight sports will be excluded from the scheme once they have reached tier A or B status at the Sports Institute.