Hong Kong to greet re-visit of Olympic flame with enthusiasm (with video)

    After completing its trip in Ho Chi Minh City today (April 29), the Olympic flame will arrive at Hong Kong aboard a special charter flight for the Torch Relay to be held in the territory on May 2. With the preparatory work for the Olympic Torch Relay in Hong Kong having entered the final stage, the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mr Thomas Chow unveiled the route of the Torch Relay and arrangements of associated celebration activities.

    Mr Chow noted that in the light of the experience gained from the Community Torch Relay on April 18, the route of the Olympic Torch Relay on May 2 was considered appropriate and workable, and the whole event should be able to complete on time. The detailed arrangements have been fine-tuned, hoping that the event could run as smoothly as possible on that day.

    The fine-tuning is in Sha Tin section of the route where the starting point of this section will be moved slightly backwards. The convoy will not stop in front of the entrance of Sha Tin Sports Ground at Yuen Wo Road as initially planned, but will travel all the way to Sha Tin Rural Committee Road, where the Olympic flame will be carried by the torchbearers again. This adjustment has been made by taking into account the presence of three centres of the Hong Kong Certificate of Education Examination, including the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals Mrs Fung Wong Fung Ting College, the SKH Tsang Shiu Tim Secondary School and the Baptist Lui Ming Choi Secondary School on Yuen Wo Road.

    Mr Chow said that according to schedule, when the convoy arrived at the Sha Tin section, the examination should have ended for over half an hour and should not be affected by the convoy. But to avoid disturbance to the examination centres caused by the early gathering of some citizens on Yuen Wo Road and their creation of loud noises there, the moving of the starting point was made after discussion with the Education Bureau and the Hong Kong Examinations and Assessment Authority and it is believed such an arrangement can effectively address the concern of some candidates.

    Unveiling the route of the May 2 relay, Mr Chow said at 10.30 am that day, the Torch Relay will start at the Piazza of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and when the torchbearer reached the junction of Austin Road and Canton Road, the Olympic flame will be contained in the tinder lamp for the time being and carried on board the convoy, which will travel all the way from Kowloon West to the Tsing Ma Bridge Toll Plaza. A fleet of vintage cars will follow the convoy on the way.

    When the convoy arrives at the Kowloon-bound Tsing Ma Bridge, the Olympic flame will be relayed by running to the Lantau Link Viewing Point. Upon its arrival at the viewing point, the Olympic flame will be carried to Sha Tin on board the convoy again.

    In the Sha Tin section, after the torch has reached the Shek Mun Dragon Boat Training Centre, the torchbearer will carry the Olympic flame across the river aboard a dragon boat for the Sha Tin Rowing Centre on the other side of the river. For the Olympic flame to be carried by running again into the Hong Kong Olympic Equestrian Venue and the Sha Tin Racecourse.

    At the end of the relay in the racecourse is a short break. Then the fleet will carry the Olympic flame to the Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade, passing through the Avenue of Stars to the Kowloon Public Pier. There the torchbearer will board a launch and cross Victoria Harbour to the Government Pier at Central for the continuation of the relay on land. From the pier the Olympic flame will go through Central and Wan Chai, until it reaches the finishing point at the Golden Bauhinia Square.

    Three large-scale celebration activities will be organised on May 2 to mark the Torch Relay. In the morning before the start of the Torch Relay, there will be a solemn launching ceremony held at the Piazza of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre from 10 am to 10.30 am.  At about 2 pm when the Olympic flame arrives at the Sha Tin Racecourse, there will be a large-scale community celebration with the participation of about 15 000 people from different sectors across the 18 districts. When the last torchbearer reaches the Golden Bauhinia Square and lights the cauldron with the Olympic flame at around 5 pm, a grand closing ceremony will ensue and finish at 6 pm. The Olympic flame will then leave for the airport, where it will board a special charter flight for Macao, the next stop.

    To facilitate the Torch Relay, there will be temporary closures of Hong Kong Museum of Art, Hong Kong Space Museum, Hong Kong Cultural Centre and its restaurants and shops, Hong Kong Cultural Centre Piazza, Tsim Sha Tsui Promenade and the Avenue of Stars, for certain hours between April 30 and May 2.

    Speaking at the press conference, the Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs, Mrs Carrie Yau, said the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government and related organisations have done a lot of work to prepare for the arrival of the Olympic flame and to ensure the smooth staging of the Olympic Torch Relay on May 2 and that most preparatory work has been completed.

    Mrs Yau said members of the public were welcome to choose strategic locations to cheer for torchbearers, such as the Tsim Sha Tsui section of Nathan Road, the area around the banks of the Shing Mun River in Sha Tin, the vicinity of the Government Pier in Central, and the Wan Chai section of Hennessy Road or watch the events broadcast live on TV at home.

    People can also watch the Torch Relayˇ¦s live webcast at www.lcsd.gov.hk and pictures of the torch bearers relaying the Olympic flame will also be uploaded to the website.

    Mrs Yau appealed to members of the public to maintain a rational, peaceful and joyous manner when watching the Olympic flame in the streets and hoped that the general public could adopt an understanding attitude when the traffic and public transport services in their districts were affected with a view to making the Torch Relay in Hong Kong a success so as to showcase to the world the calibre of Hong Kong people.

    The Director of Home Affairs, Mrs Pamela Tan, also speaking at the press conference, said the Community Celebration to be held in the Sha Tin Racecourse would highlight the unique features of Hong Kong, such as the city as the confluence between Western and Eastern cultures; Hong Kong as Asiaˇ¦s international city with multicultures; and Hong Kong as a dynamic and energetic capital.

    Mrs Tan said: ˇ§To facilitate the people travelling to the Sha Tin Racecourse, arrangements have been made with the Mass Transit Railway for trains to run from the Sha Tin station to the Sha Tin Racecourse station at 11.30 am, noon and 12.30 pm. Five train services will also be arranged for people to leave after the celebration.ˇ¨

    ˇ§Apart from the Community Celebration, a procession will also be organised at 12.30 pm in the Sha Tin Racecourse for warm-up purposes.ˇ¨

    The Community Celebration, as part of the Torch Relay in Hong Kong, will be broadcast live on television on the day.

    To facilitate the Olympic Torch Relay, the Transport Department (TD) will adjust and divert, by phases, the public transport services in areas covered by the route from 10 am on May 2, Principal Transport Officer of the TD, Mr Albert Su, said. Traffic travelling along major roads in Tsim Sha Tsui, Island North, Central, Wan Chai, Causeway Bay, Lantau Link and Sha Tin will also be affected.

    Bus service, green minibus service, residents' service and cross-boundary coach service will be affected. The adjustments include temporary route truncation, diversion, service frequency reduction, service suspension or relocation of bus stops.

    Moreover, ferry services plying between the inner Victoria Harbour and outlying islands may be slightly affected from about 3.30 pm to about 4.30 pm. As some of the footbridges along the torch relay route in Central and Wan Chai will be temporarily closed, ferry passengers using these bridges to reach and depart Central Piers and Wan Chai waterfront, in particular residents of outlying islands, should take heed of the relevant arrangements and reserve ample time for travelling so as not to miss the ferry services.

    In addition, to facilitate the holding of the closing ceremony cum cocktail reception at Golden Bauhinia Square and Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre New Wing, Expo Drive, Expo Drive Central and Expo Drive East will be closed from noon to 8 pm. The bus terminus, taxi stands and the coach metered parking spaces at Expo Drive will be suspended from midnight in phases.

    The TD anticipated that the traffic conditions from Central to Wan Chai during peak hours in the afternoon may become uncertain. The traffic would be much heavier and congested than any Friday at major trunk roads on Hong Kong Island and even the Cross Harbour Tunnel.

    All drivers should avoid driving to affected or congested areas. Non-road-based public transport services should be used as far as possible. If driving is unavoidable, they should plan the driving route carefully, use alternative routes and allow more travelling time. Motorists should also pay attention to the latest traffic news broadcast on radio, television and in vehicular tunnels, as well as temporary closure arrangements that may be in force at public car parks. Motorists are also advised to follow the instructions of the police officers on site or the road signs in case of brief road closures, traffic controls and diversions and they should drive carefully at all times.

    School buses operating within the scope of the Olympic Torch Relay will also be affected. Secondary and primary school students, parents, school principals, drivers and nannies of school buses should watch out for the latest traffic and transport news. They should also make prior arrangement for pick-up and keep in close communication during the day. Candidates attending public examinations should plan in advance their itineraries and allow ample time for transport.

    Members of the public can browse the TD's website (www.td.gov.hk) for more details on road closures, traffic diversions and changes to public transport services. They can also obtain the information by calling the TD Hotline 1834567 or Citizen's Easy Link at 1823.

    Also speaking at the joint press conference, the Chief Superintendent of the Police Public Relations Branch, Mr David Ng Ka-sing, said that the Police would endeavor as far as possible to ensure the smooth flow of traffic and to minimise traffic congestion during the Torch Relay, adding that sufficient police officers will be deployed for traffic management duties. 

    ˇ§Pedestrians should stay on the pavements on the sides of roads and refrain from stepping onto the roads reserved for the relay or approaching any torchbearers when watching the torch relay,ˇ¨ he said.

    Members of the public are also not allowed to remain on pedestrian footbridges when the core convoy passing through them or immediately adjacent to them. These footbridges will be temporary closed when the core convoy is approaching. Once the convoy has passed, they are to be reopened immediately.

    ˇ§Our primary concern is public order and safety. There may be obstruction to other users of the footbridges if members of the public are allowed to stay on the pedestrian footbridges.

    ˇ§Signage will be displayed at the entrances to and along the footbridges. Members of the public are advised to follow the instructions of the police officers on site. The arrangement is in line with the crowd management measures on both sides of Victoria Harbour during the fireworks display,ˇ¨ he noted.

    The TD and the Police would also adopt ad hoc traffic control measures if the circumstances and traffic conditions at the time warranted, Mr Ng added.

    Mrs Yau said it is understood that many citizens will wave national flags and Hong Kong flags on May 2 to show their support. She reminded citizens of keeping the national flags and Hong Kong flags after watching the Torch Relay as the flags symbolised the country and the city and had tremendous commemorative value.

    ˇ§Since they may still be used in many activities related to the Olympics in the coming few months, it would be worthwhile to safe-keep the flags as a way to show our wholehearted support for Green Olympicsˇ¨.

    Mrs Yau said the government will distribute to members of the public a booklet which contains the details of the programmes in the coming few months.

Ends/Tuesday, April 29, 2008
Issued at HKT 20:33