Stadium pitch farce was an embarrassment to Hong Kong (Jeffrey Lam)

Social development, a better quality of life and enhanced transport infrastructure are necessary to make Hong Kong an international city.

Having watched the soccer exhibition match between English Premier League champions Manchester United and local champions Kitchee at Hong Kong Stadium recently, which received worldwide publicity, people in Hong Kong must have shared the same thought ‐ those large stretches of bare turf on the pitch were an embarrassment to the city.

Hong Kong has hosted many international sporting events over the years, including the Rugby Sevens, dragon boat races and the golf open, to reinforce its position as “Asia’s world city” and produce significant economic results by attracting numerous overseas viewers. So it is unfortunate that the soccer matches turned out to be a PR disaster.

There is a bright side to this, though. The incident has sparked both debate among the public on whether Hong Kong is the true‐to‐life international city it claims to be and also a common feeling that we need more new facilities such as an all‐weather stadium to reinforce our status. This is a very sensible and holistic approach towards a variety of things a true international city should offer.

Besides the “hardware”, the “software”, such as social development, a better quality of life, environmental protection and enhanced transport infrastructure are required for a city to be truly international. That’s why we should give due consideration to the Fanling golf courses and other enduring landmarks and facilities.

For historical and environmental reasons, the Fanling golf courses, the New Territories’ “green lung”, should be preserved. It is more than 100 years since the Old Course was built in 1911, when many local villagers worked at the golf club.

The Fanling site has hosted the Hong Kong Open since the tournament started in 1959, making it one of the few world‐class sporting events held annually in Hong Kong at the same venue.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong’s standing as the “events capital of Asia” is facing challenges from neighbouring cities, which are attracting major sports events including sevens rugby and Premier League showcases in a bid to grab a piece of the pie.

Away from sport, it is a worrying sign when Hong Kong International Airport has slipped from first place to fifth, according to the global benchmarking report of the world’s airports. Due to a rapid growth in passenger demand, the two runways will reach maximum capacity by 2017, three years earlier than previously projected, so the need for a third runway has become more pressing. If we become embroiled in lengthy disputes over the proposed third runway, the neighbouring cities of Shenzhen and Guangzhou, which have been aggressively expanding their aviation footprints, will surpass us.

More worrying is that when the current public sentiment dies down, with the stadium incident fading in our minds, might people too easily forget the lessons from this embarrassing incident?

Back in 2011, the Legislative Council voted against a motion for HK$6 billion of funding for a bid to host the 2023 Asian Games, with several lawmakers referring to sports facilities as white elephants.

I hope the pitch debacle prompts a calm and rational discussion about the city’s leisure and cultural facilities. The city is crying out for facilities that will allow people the chance to develop their interest, and even careers, in sport.

In this regard, the multi‐purpose sports complex project at Kai Tak, which would include an all‐weather stadium with a seating capacity of 55,000, should be speeded up after previous delays set back the opening date to at least 2019.



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