Budding mammoth pushing out icon

Central Station | Mary Ma 23 Nov 2021

Sadly, the days are numbered for Hong Kong Stadium as construction of a substitute in Kai Tak continues.

An iconic site in Causeway Bay, the stadium will be scaled down drastically from a sports venue of 40,000 seats to just 9,000 to become just one of the local sports grounds for school athletic events or local football matches once the HK$30 billion Kai Tak Sports Park is built in 2023.

What a pity for the site that has been part of our collective memory, isn't it?

When the government awarded the contract to a New World Development subsidiary to design, build and operate the Kai Tak sports complex, it was already its intent to weaken the role of the Hong Kong Stadium that has been both legendary and controversial over the years.

Further details were circulated in the Wan Chai District Council recently. The notice was a formality as many council members have resigned in the face of disqualification.

The disappointing details were predictable. If the substitute in Kai Tak is to be financially viable during the limited contract period that lasts only 25 years, including the construction period, exclusive rights would be essential.

This has always been the practice in local history.

For example, whenever a new rail track was laid to connect new towns in the past, bus services that had been connecting local neighborhoods were bound to be rerouted to avoid competing directly with the rail track that cost a fortune to lay.

In the current case of the Hong Kong Stadium and the Kai Tak Sports Park, the principles are the same, although they operate neither bus nor rail services.

Still, there is a sense of loss in knowing that the Hong Kong Stadium has to fall from the pinnacle to become merely a sports ground for school athletic gatherings. The details provided to the district council say the Hong Kong Stadium will become a 9,000-seat venue unsuitable for international events such as the acclaimed Rugby Sevens that drew tens of thousands to Causeway Bay to benefit local food and beverage businesses before the pandemic, creating an atmosphere so lively that it was second to none.

Rugby Sevens and other international sports events will move to the new sports park in Kai Tak.

Would the disappearance of a "Hong Kong Stadium" in the old grand sense lead to a rippling effect on the local businesses? While it may be too soon to say for sure, it'll be bitterly missed by many doing business in Causeway Bay and Tin Hau.

Officials say the 9,000-seat transformation is not set in stone yet.

Let's wish it's not final yet. If possible, it would also be best to preserve the stadium's identity so that it would not be lost in the transformation. Nonetheless, 9,000 seats are just too small to be desirable.

The city has plenty of sports grounds that don't stand out from each other. Do we need another common piece like those in Mong Kok, Kwai Chung or anywhere you name it?

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