Kai Tak Sports Park

Manila has 2 Olympic-size skating rinks while Hong Kong has none: City lags behind other Southeast Asian countries

Local officials and athletes say it’s high time that the city has a full size rink and they want it built at Kai Tak Sports Park

PUBLISHED : Monday, 30 April, 2018, 7:22pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 01 May, 2018, 12:40am

Hong Kong sports officials and athletes have urged authorities to build an Olympic-size skating rink at the proposed Kai Tak Sports Park or risk falling further behind other countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and even the Philippines.

Top ice skating officials said it had been 14 years since Japan’s two-time reigning Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu visited Hong Kong as a young novice and that Hong Kong was no closer to realising their dream to having a new ice skating rink that can host world-class tournaments.

Hong Kong Skating Union executive Edith Lau Shan said 14 years ago only China Japan and South Korea had proper venues but other countries such as Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines have caught up and already built proper rinks. Manila alone has two Olympic-size rinks.

“Fourteen years ago, only China, Japan and South Korea had standard venues and after all these years, Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Taiwan have built their own venues,” said Lau. “And these Southeast Asian nations have since been making good progress in the sport with their skating athletes good enough to represent their country at the Winter Olympic Games.

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“Unfortunately for a modern city like Hong Kong, we are still using commercial venues which are basically being built for mass entertainment.

“It has been proven that Asian athletes can do well in the sport and we also have the potential of competing in the Winter Olympics as we are now a tier A sport at the Sports Institute.

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“While we have the responsibility of producing elite athletes, we also need the support from the authorities in helping solve the venue problem. This would be a big step forward for us if we get our own Olympic-size rink.”

California-based Hong Kong figure skating sensation, Christy Leung Yi agreed with Lau, saying it was high time that authorities built a proper facility.

“Whenever I use the rinks in Hong Kong, I have to adjust my movements in a smaller venue and this affects my performance in jump set-up and speed,” said the talented figure skater, who easily won the Hong Kong Figure Skating Championships last week. “I face the same problem whenever I come back and compete in Hong Kong. Figure skating is growing in this part of the world and it’s a shame we don’t have a proper venue.”

Hong Kong’s skating facilities are mainly run in shopping malls for commercial use. Its size also fails to meet the Olympic standard which measures 60 metres x 30 metres. The biggest among them measures 56 x 26 metres. Also, these venues do not provide the supporting facilities for organising international events such as changing rooms, meeting rooms, referee restrooms and media centre.

With the Kai Tak Sports Park project entering its final planning stages, Lau said the government should reconsider making skating one of its priorities for the planned Indoor Sports Centre.

“We have approached government authorities and also been approached by agents from the consortium bidding the Sports Park but so far we haven’t heard anything positive,” said Lau.

“Even if they have no plans to build a skating rink, they can reserve areas to build a provisional venue for us to stage international events as all other support facilities can be found at Sports Park. We only need to place the ice and dismantle the venue after competitions.

“It’s always important to bring top events to Hong Kong to inspire our young athletes and to give them exposure so that they can learn from the world-class skaters. A proper venue will play an important role in this.”

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Lau said they were still looking for two figure skating coaches through global recruitment to help run the Sports Institute elite programme but some recommended coaches have rejected offers to work in Hong Kong knowing there was no proper facility here.