Face Off: is the Kai Tak sports park another white elephant project?

YP ReporterSnehaa Senthamilselvan EaswariJoy Lee

Each week, two of our readers debate a hot topic in a parliamentary-style debate that doesn’t necessarily reflect their personal viewpoint. This week’s topic is ...

YP ReporterSnehaa Senthamilselvan EaswariJoy Lee |

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Yeung Tak-keung, the Hong Kong Government's Commissioner for Sports says the controversial HK$31.9 billion Kai Tak Sports Park will not be another white elephant. What do you think?

Snehaa Senthamilselvan Easwari, 17, Li Po Chun United World College

The Kai Tak Sports Park is definitely a white elephant project. Look at the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal: it has been seriously underused because of its poor transport connections. I simply don’t believe the sports park will do any better.

The sports park is controversial because the government agreed to pay the bidders for the project whether or not they won the bid. I’m not sure if it is necessary to sacrifice taxpayers’ money to compensate these bidders. It’s not the best way of encouraging more developers to get involved and invest.

What’s more, I question whether a sports park can really help to boost the city’s sports development. There are plenty of examples of sports parks being abandoned after a certain period, most notably those built to host Olympics events, which is what happened in Brazil. Just six months after hosting South America’s first-ever Olympic Games, the Rio de Janeiro venues, some of which have been looted, sit idle. This leaves the tax-paying public wondering why their money is being put into investments such as these.

The Kai Tak project website states that the project is “supporting elite athletes by providing more opportunities for them to compete on home ground”, and “promoting the enjoyment and benefits of sports”. While these are both worthy goals, it’s important that the government clear up issues such as who will maintain the facilities in a long run.

It’s inevitable that dedicating 28 hectares of land to a sports park involves more than just money, space and objectives. It’s crucial that the government and stakeholders not only focus on short-term impacts but also consider the long-term outcome of the project.

A short-term vision isn’t enough for a large-scale project like this. It’s now time to ask ourselves and our government: what do we hope to achieve in the long term with the establishment of this undeniable white elephant of a project?

Joy Lee, 15, South Island School

A white elephant investment is one that has a lower value or utility than the cost of maintenance. The Kai Tak Sports park is not such a project.

For one, the park has the potential to be a popular tourist attraction. Hong Kong lacks a large stadium capable of hosting international sporting events, so the new park will open itself to a multitude of new opportunities. Events that take place in the future (such as concerts and sports competitions) will be a source of income for the government and other parties involved. If the city wants to establish itself as the centre of sports and entertainment, a large stadium would promote this.

While the park may be a white elephant in the short run, so was the Empire State Building for 20 years before the 1950s. Today, it is a must-see tourist attraction for anyone going to New York. The new park could see a similar fate. Hong Kong’s tourism industry needs this boost, as the number of visitors coming to the city has decreased in recent years, according to the Hong Kong Tourism Commission.

The main reason people are worried that the park will be a white elephant is because of the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal which opened in June 2013. However, this was largely due to issues that the plan for the Kai Tak sports park promises to fix. The Cruise Terminal was criticised for not having enough stadiums and bad transport links, but the new park will have a mall, offices, three large stadiums, a hotel and more. In addition, an MTR station will open near the park so it is easily accessible.

Overall, it is unlikely that the Kai Tak Sports park will be another white elephant. Not only will the park offer several social benefits for Hongkongers and revenue for the government, but it will also be an amazing opportunity for tourism and for fostering international relations. In other words, the values outweigh the cost of maintenance.

Edited by Charlotte Ames-Ettridge