Following is the speech by the Secretary for Home Affairs, Mr David Lan, in the motion debate on "sports facilities" in the Legislative Council today (Wednesday) (English only):
I am very glad that today's motion debate has generated so much interest. If my counting has not been mistaken, I think we have as many as 19 members having spoken on this subject. It shows that Hong Kong people including our legislators are very interested in sports and Hong Kong is definitely not a desert insofar as sports is concerned. I should like first of all, if I may, take this opportunity to correct the misconception which is often reported in the media on occasions and which might affect the thinking of some Honourable Members today in the deliberation. And the misconception is that the Government has spent too little and has done nothing for sports in Hong Kong and Hong Kong has not done enough insofar as sports is concerned. Let me give you some facts. Not counting the contributions made by the two municipal councils, insofar as provision of facilities and also providing services for sports and recreation is concerned, Government's direct subvention to sports channeled through the Sports Development Board (SDB) has increased by 150 percent, from $78 million in 1996/97 to $200 million in the current financial year, i.e.1999/2000, that is in the past three years. And I think we have also seen some good results as pointed out by Honourable Members just now. In the Asian Games held recently in Bangkok, Thailand, Hong Kong has won five gold medals, six silver, six bronze. And also as the Hon Eric Li pointed out, we did very well in Paralympic Games, in the Fespic Games, in other words the Games For the Disabled.
Now comes to the Asian Games. The Asian Games is one of the region's most prestigious and widely-watched events. Once every four years, for a two-week period, the eyes of hundreds of millions of sports enthusiasts throughout Asia and beyond are focussed on the Games and on the host city. Generally speaking, there is tremendous potential for that city to gain significant social and economic benefits from its hosting of the Games.
The award of the right to host the Asian Games is therefore often considered a great honour for any city. It creates opportunities not only for sporting development, but also for social and economic advancement and tourism growth. It is therefore understandable that there is keen competition among Asian cities to bid for the right to host the Games. It is equally understandable that in order to secure this right, a city must meet a very high standard, not only in terms of facilities for the Games themselves, but also in terms of cultural, economic and, and I am sure the Hon Christine Loh would like to hear, environmental conditions.
The Hong Kong SAR has an excellent range of good-quality sports facilities, developed primarily to meet the recreational needs of our citizens. While the SAR's geographical limitations make it difficult to cater for the full range of sports enthusiasts' interests, nonetheless, most popular sports are well catered for. In addition we have venues capable of holding world-class for individual sports events, and in recent years have hosted such events in sports as diverse as swimming, rugby and taekwondo.
It is one thing to have a range of good-quality facilities which meet the recreational and sporting needs of the community. However, it is another thing entirely to provide venues of the nature, variety and calibre required for the hosting of a full-scale event such as the Asian Games.
For the recent 1998 Asian Games, held in Bangkok, a large number of the main sporting events were held at a purpose-built facility occupying a site of some 45 hectares. Other events took place in venues elsewhere in the city, and at locations outside Bangkok itself. Numerous events in over 30 different sports, took place almost simultaneously over the period of the Games. Clearly, hosting an event of this nature is an enormous undertaking, involving a considerable commitment in terms both of finance and of human resources. In Hong Kong we are renowned throughout Asia and beyond for our financial expertise and the dynamic and resourceful qualities of our work force. In short, we have a justifiable reputation for getting things done. Nonetheless, planning and building facilities up to the standards likely to be required for hosting the Asian Games would present a major challenge, particularly if timing were also a key issue.
In this context, we are aware that the Sports Federation & Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China (SF&OC) is considering bidding for the 2006 Games, and that it hopes to indicate its intentions to the Olympic Council of Asia before the end of this year. We have therefore written to the SF&OC asking for an indication of the likely facilities required for hosting the Games, and have in the past few days received their reply, outlining in brief terms the basic requirements. We are now studying this, with a view to developing a clearer picture of the commitment needed to host the Asian Games.
Having regard to the benefits that hosting the Asian Games could bring to the SAR, which I described earlier, the Government takes a positive attitude towards the proposal to bid for the Games, and supports this in principle. Indeed, we welcome the SF&OC's ambitious initiative in this regard. But we are anxious that such a bid should be a credible one, and one that has a strong chance of succeeding in bringing Asia's biggest sporting event to Hong Kong. We therefore need to be sure that we can meet the likely requirements of the Olympic Council of Asia in assessing bids, before committing the SAR to the aim of hosting the Games in 2006.
To this end, we are already studying the question of land availability for the building of strategic recreational and sports facilities. In his motion, the Hon Timothy Fok refers to the designation of land for the building of certain specific facilities. The Hon Ng Leung-sing just now also expressed his concern about adequate land allocation for provision of sports and recreational facilities. As a matter of fact, the recently revised Chapter 4 of the Hong Kong Planning Standards and Guidelines notes that four sites have been reserved for the provision of stadia. In addition, a 10-hectare site on a future reclamation in Tai Po district has recently been designated for strategic recreational use.
Given that we already have a number of sites presently ear-marked for the development of major sports and recreational facilities, we will study potential uses for these sites, bearing in mind the various constraints involved. These constraints include: the size; environmental considerations; traffic implications; and the timetable for the likely availability of these sites. Once we have more precise information on the parameters for a successful Asian Games bid, we will be in a better position to assess the initial feasibility of building new facilities for such an event, and where necessary renovating existing facilities in order to meet the necessary standards.
Quite apart from the issue of site availability, we will also have to consider the financial implications of providing major new sports facilities within a defined time-frame. The long-term viability of such facilities is also an issue - it is essential that such venues should be able to serve a public need beyond the hosting of occasional major sports events. In this regard, I note the Hon Timothy Fok's suggestion to integrate these facilities with arts and cultural venues. While I agree that this is an idea worthy of further detailed consideration, we should also bear in mind that the needs of the arts and cultural community may well be very different from those of our athletes and their sports associations. We also need to consider how a stadium facility might be integrated with an aquatic centre. The importance of careful planning and co-ordination of facilities must certainly not be overlooked.
Looking beyond the question of facilities provision per se, there are many other questions which have to be addressed in considering support for an Asian Games bid. More than 10,000 athletes, coaches and administrators could be expected to take part in such a games, and a package of appropriate accommodation and transportation arrangements will have to be put in place to meet their needs. We have to consider the longer-term effects on the economy of preparing for and hosting an event of this scale, with regard to our tourism industry, the environment, planning considerations, allocation of public resources, etc. A number of different government bureaux and departments will be involved in assessing all these factors.
There is also the question of how hosting the Asian Games might help to shape our development of a comprehensive policy for Hong Kong's sports development. Since the setting up of the Hong Kong Sports Development Board (SDB) in 1990, we have relied heavily on the Board to support the development of sport in Hong Kong. This has involved improving the standards of our coaches, athletes and administrators, as well as supporting the National Sports Associations. While the results which have been achieved over the past few years attest to the success of the Board's approach, we need to consider how we can maintain the momentum which has been built up, and where possible make further improvements.
In this regard, I note the amendment to the original motion, proposed by the Hon Andrew Cheng, which focuses on the formulation of a comprehensive sports policy for the SAR. Members are aware that in recent months we have been conducting thorough consultation on the future administrative framework for sport following publication of our Consultant's report in mid-March. This has included discussions with concerned sports organisations and with the LegCo Home Affairs Panel. The development of a new administrative structure for sport will give us an opportunity to formulate an integrated sports and recreational policy for Hong Kong. Such a policy could lay down firm principles for sports development from the junior entry level right up to the training of elite competitive athletes.
A week from today I shall introduce into this Council a Bill seeking to expand the membership of the SDB. This will include increasing the SF&OC's representation on the Board. With this expansion, the SDB will be better placed to provide advice to Government on a wide range of policy issues related to sport and recreation. I look forward in due course, to developing a comprehensive sports policy for the early years of the new century, in consultation with the SDB, the SF&OC and other stakeholders in the sports community. Without question, this policy must include reference to the adequacy of facilities to meet our future sports and recreational needs, as well as to how to encourage greater participation and raise sporting standards and awareness in Hong Kong.
In conclusion, I thank Honourable Members for their views on this issue. I look forward in the coming months to studying further the SAR's real needs as regards the provision of sports and recreational facilities and to promoting the development of a comprehensive policy in this area. We will seriously assess the SF&OC's proposal to host the Asian Games, and I can assure Members that we will co-operate closely with the sports community and other interested parties in this important task. Thank you.
End/Wednesday, June 30, 1999