Inherent negativity in Hong Kong threatening future prosperity following Formula E debut

Despite local sentiment, Hong Kong needs the innovative series as much as it needs us after maiden race brings with it mixed opinions

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 October, 2016, 1:44pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 October, 2016, 6:38pm

Being high in Hong Kong is a different trip entirely. The vistas are unmatched with the towering urban sprawl framed by equally majestic peaks. No matter who you are or where you are, when you see it you know instinctively it’s Hong Kong and you know it is special.

Forty-eight floors above Central on an outdoor terrace is pretty special as well, particularly when the first Formula E race ever in Hong Kong is taking place directly below you.

For more years than anyone can remember, the magnificence of the harbour has been largely underutilised as the ultimate promotional tool for a variety of reasons.

However, these days a proactive mantra to attract significant events to the waterfront is now under way and no event has more promotional heft than this race. You watch it on TV, the broadcast is being beamed globally, and the visuals are stunning.

Watch: Highlights from the Hong Kong Formula E race

“All things considered, this is a promising debut for the race,” said American Brian Brenner. He is watching the event along with a swelling pack of guests at the American Club on the 48th floor of Exchange Square.

“There are going to be growing pains, but at least someone is trying to create a buzz here.”

Hong Kong can breathe easier with Formula E race clearing up the air

His son, Joseph, is also impressed with the event and was part of the crew who went along the day before to watch qualifying and check out the eVillage.

“I think it is a good idea that they are trying to be eco-friendly,” Joseph says. “But still there is concern on the impact that the batteries have on the environment.”

Yes, Joseph, indeed there are still environmental concerns regarding the impact of electronic vehicles on the environment. But it is significantly less of a concern than the filthy diesel that is being burned on Hong Kong streets.

This is quite a privileged place to watch the event, one of the premier clubs in Hong Kong, and hardly indicative of the experience the community as a whole is having.

Dear Formula E – I’m not ‘negative’ about your event, but it’s not my job to sell it either

However, it’s not like the anti-everything lobby speaks for the majority either. Instead of seeing the benefits of having high-profile events around here, there is still very much a sense of entitlement among some when it comes to occasionally upsetting their routine.

Combine that with the inherent cynicism and it is inevitable that the naysayers will pour it on.

Predictably, the refrain was swift and endless.

Watch: Hong Kong Formula E race cinematic highlights

A race through the streets of the Hong Kong and in electric cars no less? What a stupid idea, it will never work and only cause massive traffic delays everywhere. No, we don’t need it, after all this is Hong Kong.

Exactly, this is Hong Kong and these days significance is not inherent. You have to sell this place because there are far too many business and travel options in Asia alone.

The wider benefits of hosting the Formula E race

As inviting and exotic as it may seem to come here, the local conceit that Hong Kong is the be all and end all of destinations is fortunately over.

Hong Kong needs Formula E as much as Formula E needs it.

Of course this is not Formula One, that’s in Singapore and it’s just one more reason to get over yourself Hong Kong.

That race is in Singapore because we have been bedevilled by small-minded, risk-averse bureaucrats and equally small-minded commentators and business leaders. Someone takes a chance and the government finally gets behind it and basically on cue the default moaning begins. But who really knows where Formula E is going?

Thrills and spills? Not at the Hong Kong Formula E races

There is great potential not only for the circuit but for Hong Kong’s role in the growth of it. It is complete and utter folly to think that organisers and the government would nail this event on their first try. Mistakes were bound to happen and they did.

The local media was largely in the dark and there is an arrogance among the European powers from the governing body, the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), that they know what is best regardless of their lack of familiarity around here.

But while Hong Kong may be a big city, it’s a small town with its own set of rules. Compromise and your sport will grow. Act high and mighty and it won’t, at least not around here.

Despite some appearances to the contrary, there are many people here who want the event to succeed.

Hong Kong Formula E race to stay at Central Harbourfront in 2017, says Tourism Board’s Peter Lam

When the likes of Jaguar, Audi, BMW and Mercedes get involved in this circuit, you know they have visions for the future. They have to be looking forward and so should we.

The future is now and you don’t need to be high above Hong Kong to see it.