The Hong Kong Sports Institute’s proposed HK$986.6 million (US$126.5 million) expansion won the initial backing of lawmakers on Friday, with the project clearing its first hurdle after being brought forward following the city’s best-ever Olympic Games performance in Tokyo this summer.
The strong support also came on the heels of an unprecedented announcement on Thursday that Hong Kong would join Macau and Guangdong province in hosting the 2025 National Games of China. It will be the first time the city has been involved in hosting a multisport event on such a scale since the 2009 East Asian Games.
Speaking after a Legislative Council meeting on Friday, Secretary for Home Affairs Caspar Tsui Ying-wai described co-hosting the 15th National Games as “great news” for Hong Kong.
“It shows the central government is confident Hong Kong can play an important role in the development and professionalisation of sports, as well as the provision of facilities and infrastructure,” he said.
“By hosting sports events in Hong Kong, the public has the chance to experience the events up close. This will help drive elite sports development and popularise sports in the city.”
Tsui said he hoped Hong Kong would co-host the cycling and water sports events at the 2025 Games.
Between 1959 and 2001, the National Games were held in Beijing, Shanghai or Guangdong. But since 2005, other provinces have organised them, with Shaanxi hosting the Games next month. The 2025 Games mark the first time the event, which now takes place every four years, will be co-hosted.
Earlier on Friday, Tsui attended a meeting of Legco’s home affairs panel to lobby lawmakers for their support of the institute’s expansion.
Under the project, a three-storey building, with a net operating floor area of 8,935 square metres (96,175 sq ft), will be added to its campus in Sha Tin. It will include facilities such as a 1,400 square metre (15,070 sq ft) multi-purpose training hall for sports such as table tennis and fencing, a 400 square metre (4,305 sq ft) training ground for martial arts and dance sports, and an 850 square metre (9,150 sq ft) sports medicine centre with treatment rooms and training areas.
A 50-room residence area for visiting teams, including five rooms for disabled people, will also be built.
Tsui told lawmakers the project would help athletes reach new heights in various competitions.
“There are a number of coming major sporting events, such as the Paris 2024 Olympic Games, the 2025 National Games, the 2026 Asian Games… We want to support our athletes to help them bring more glory to Hong Kong,” he said.
The main work for the institute’s new facilities will cost an estimated HK$986.6 million. It is expected to be completed in mid-2024.
Officials said the new facilities would help accommodate the increase in the number of athletes from 651 in 2007-08 to around 1,300 in 2021-22 and elite sports, and provide more sports science and sports medicine facilities for athletes.
The government aims to have the funding approved by the public works subcommittee and the Finance Committee before the current legislative term ends in late October.
Most of the lawmakers who spoke at the panel meeting strongly backed the plan.
“The Hong Kong Sports Institute is a very important base to promote elite athletes. The historic performance at the Tokyo Olympics is an excellent achievement and I hope we can speed up the construction of the project,” Wilson Or Chong-shing said.
Michael Tien Puk-sun also expressed his support and noted the 2025 National Games would help push forward Beijing’s ambitious Greater Bay Area plan to turn Hong Kong, Macau and nine Guangdong cities into an economic powerhouse.
“This is an important step for Hong Kong to integrate into the Greater Bay Area. It will help enhance the standard of Hong Kong athletes… and promote sports development through the mainland China market,” he said.
Hong Kong recently celebrated its most successful Olympics, taking a gold medal only the city’s second ever two silvers and three bronzes in Tokyo.
Chief Executive Carrie Lam Cheng Yuet-ngor unveiled a raft of measures aimed at boosting sports development after the historic showing, including the expedited construction of the new facilities at the institute two years earlier than originally planned.
Category: Hong Kong