Power is with the people, says Olympic ringmaster Seb Coe as he outlines his vision for Kai Tak Sports Park
Athletics boss says ensuring the community feel like they have ‘some skin in the game’ is crucial
Sebastian Coe says the success of the Kai Tak Sports Park rests on making Hongkongers feel like they have “some skin in the game”, highlighting the way the London Olympic Park engaged students during construction.
Coe is in Hong Kong in his role as executive chairman of CSM Sport & Entertainment, which is partnering with Guangzhou R&F Properties as one of three consortiums bidding for the tender of the HK$32 billion Sports Park.
While there has been plenty of discussion around the importance of the appearance of the stadium in resonating with the public, Coe says working with the community every step of the way is crucial.
“You have got to engage local people in the development. The Sports Park has the advantage of giving a chance for people to really understand and get excited about the project and feel they have got some skin in the game, they are part of it, they have been engaged and they are helping,” said Coe, who is president of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) and led London’s successful 2012 Olympic bid.
“It is very easy to get into the weeds very quickly and start talking about how it is going to work and how it is going to look and more often than not that leaves people cold.
“The most important thing about a multi-sports event or a sporting facility is to consistently explain why you are doing it, why it is important and what difference it is going to make to people’s kids, grandchildren and their great grandchildren, what are you leaving behind and what is the ambition?
“The most demanding stakeholders you ever have are not the constructors, your bosses or your local politicians, it’s actually the people that live in the city.”
Part of that is engaging schools and ensuring the leaders of tomorrow are given a chance to learn in a unique setting.
“In London [in the build-up to 2012] we had the Olympic Park young constructors and they came onto the park and we had a resource centre,” Coe said.
“Local primary schools and secondary schools came and met with the architects, so a lot of the stuff you were doing on the park was being explained and actually some of it was real, living issues around sustainability, architecture, decommission of toxic land and all that sort of stuff.
“It wasn’t just something that was in a textbook or online, it was something they were living and breathing and a whole heap of schools had their students doing project work and using it as a way to introduce them to scientific concepts.”
Coe says the facility – which will boast a 50,000-seat multi-purpose stadium with a retractable roof, a 10,000-seat indoor arena and a 5,000-seat public sports ground – must have the ability to attract major sporting events, including world championships, and teams training for international events, as well as cater to local and regional competitions and the general public.
“Clearly it has got to work, it has got to be operationally integrated, it’s got to reach out beyond Hong Kong and become a sporting centre of excellence regionally and ideally globally,” he said.
“It needs to be consumer friendly, you want repeat business. You want people not just in Hong Kong but international people that may train here or be preparing for major events to have a great time here.
“Word of mouth in sport is hugely important.”
And Coe’s view on the appearance, which many worry will suffer due to the government’s strict construction guidelines?
“I sense that sometimes if you try too hard to make it look modern it dates quite quickly, so there will need to be a balance of good architectural design that stands the test of time and at the same time there has to be functionality.”