In his last policy address, outgoing Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying proposed that the Wan Chai Sports Ground be redeveloped into a comprehensive complex that includes exhibition, social and recreational facilities.
Leung wants to tear down the Wan Chai Sports Ground and turn it into an extended part of the existing Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Center in order to meet the growing demand for convention and exhibition venues.
I am firmly opposed to it because demolishing the Wan Chai Sports Ground would be completely against the public interest.
In fact, the facility is not only the cradle of professional track and field athletes generation after generation but is also one of the two existing track and field stadiums in Hong Kong that meet international standards and hold major events.
Once the Wan Chai Sports Ground is gone, the Cheung Kwan O stadium will be the only remaining world-class stadium available for major track and field events in Hong Kong.
The Cheung Kwan O stadium is also a major venue for the local Division 1 soccer league. If the Wan Chai Sports Ground is gone, our track and field athletes and our soccer teams will have to compete for slots in the Cheung Kwan O Stadium for training and matches.
In order to support his proposal to tear down the Wan Chai stadium, the chief executive cited the results of a consultancy report commissioned by the government in 2014 that by 2028, Hong Kong will need an extra 132,000 square meters of indoor exhibition venues during peak seasons such as April and October to meet increasing demand.
However, what he didn’t tell us is that the report proposes 15 options for the government to address the shortage, and demolishing the Wan Chai Sports Ground is not among the options, indicating that giving up the decades-old stadium is not necessary at all.
Apparently, there is a wide variety of alternatives to tearing down the Wan Chai Stadium in order to build more indoor exhibition facilities.
Even if everything is on course and on schedule, the proposed multi-purpose sport stadium in Kai Tak won’t be completed until at least 2022.
Given that, is it really in the best public interest to sacrifice the Wan Chai stadium in favour of some fancy exhibition halls which can be built somewhere else in our city?
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on Jan. 23
Translation by Alan Lee
[Chinese version 中文版]
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