Riding a wave of sporting success in the last few years with success at the East Asian Games, the government is floating (or rather pushing) the idea of hosting the 2023 Asian Games in Hong Kong. This comes despite Hong Kong having failed in its bid for the 2006 Asian Games which eventually went to Doha, Qatar.
During the 2006 bid which was done in 2000, the direct costs was just 1.72 billion, a figure which has now risen to at least 13.7 billion. The revenue from ticket sales, merchandising and sponsorship is expected to be just 700 million, down from 980 million. For the government, and for the taxpayers, this represents as massive 13.8 billion dollar net loss compared with the estimated 730.5 million net loss in the 2006 bid. In fact, if you consider the highest estimated economic benefit derived from the hosting, Hong Kong would have gained a total of 130 million economically. However, considering the high cost of the 2023 bid, a loss of nearly 13 billion dollars is expected for Hong Kong. From a purely economical view, bidding for the 2023 Asian Games is a stupid idea – even according to the government’s own statistics released by the Home Affairs Bureau. And it should be noted that such estimations exclude the cost of building eight new venues (which the government claims is already budgeted for) as well as the athlete’s village (because a decision still needs to be made whether private developers or the government will build them)
For all the “boost the city’s sports development, social cohesion and international status” that such a move would achieve, it is a wasteful use of money and achieves surprisingly little. Think back to the East Asian Games or even the Olympics, sure it was fun not to have to fly to watch any of those events, but only a few sports (diving, table tennis, badminton) are really popular. The rest were watched in half empty stadiums. Hosting large scale sporting events might increase Hong Kong’s standing internationally and as a hub for sports, but does it do anything for the people of Hong Kong? No. We are no more healthy or fit than we were before the 2008 Olympics or the 2010 EAGs.
It is important to increase the stature of sport in Hong Kong. As a amateur athlete myself, I have no qualms about increase the quality or amount of facilities, or even to make them simply more accessible by removing red tape. But at the end of the day, this is a local issue, not an international or even regional problem. Hosting regional games throws money where it isn’t need. A six-week consultation is going to occur up till November 3rd. A decision on whether to file a formal bid to the Olympic Council of Asia will be made by the end of January. Hopefully the HK government will realize what we need are local solutions, not regional showcases.