Play The Game

What do New Delhi, Manila, Jakarta, Bangkok, Tehran, Hiroshima, Busan, Doha, Guangzhou and Incheon have in common? If asked, most Hong Kong people would probably wrinkle up their noses and say that they were all cities inferior to Hong Kong.

And what do Tokyo, Seoul and Beijing have in common? Most Hong Kong people would accept that they are important cities, but many would quietly feel in their hearts that Hong Kong was every bit as good and maybe just a little bit better.

And what do all 13 of these cities have in common? They have all hosted, or have agreed to host, the Asian Games.

Looking ahead to 2019, the reported bidders are Dubai, Manila (yes, that Manila), Taipei, Hanoi and - wait for it - Singapore, which hosted the Asian Youth Games in 2009 and the Summer Youth Olympics earlier this year. It's probably too early to get a bet on at the Jockey Club, but our old rivals Singapore certainly look a strong runner in that race.

And whether they have done it before, or have agreed to do it, or are bidding to do it, all these cities have one other thing in common: they are making a statement about themselves to the region and indeed the whole world, that they are important places, they take themselves seriously, and when a significant international event is due to take place, they want to be in the thick of the action. They want to be seen as a major player on the world stage.

What of our home, Hong Kong? Well we did bid for the 2006 games, but perhaps because of complacency, or over confidence, or politics, or some other reason, we lost out to Doha. And now we are considering a bid for the 2023 games. But instead of polishing our credentials, firming up plans and launching a behind the scenes lobbying campaign to make sure we don't lose out again, we have issued a weak as milk tea consultation paper with the exciting title "Should Hong Kong bid to host the 2023 Asian Games?" Really sets the pulse racing, doesn't it? Maybe not.

Now I think we can all accept that Hong Kong is not the most sporting community in the world (unless you include betting on sports results, in which case we might be number one). And we can all agree that the $14 billion or so that it would cost to host, on top of other already planned expenditure on sports facilities, is a lot of money. But a Government that was prepared to commit spending $40 billion on a bridge, and $60 billion on a rail line and then fight for approval for the funding should surely have been prepared to make a decision in principle to go ahead and then bent its back to get community understanding and the necessary votes in LegCo's Finance Committee.

Instead of a decision, and an action plan, we get a cheap cop out. The whole issue gets pushed out to the community at large with the merest hint that if there is enthusiastic support then the government will take the idea forward. Whatever happened to executive led government?

The simple truth is we have lost the match before a single ball has been kicked. By adopting this half hearted approach the Administration is very unlikely to garner community support, and anyway we have already sent a clear signal to the region's sporting decision makers that we're not really that interested. Shame on us. We send our athletes to Olympic Games all over the world, and Asian Games around the region, when they are hosted by other cities, but then when it's our turn to pay we duck.

We style ourselves as Asia's World City, partly because that's what we are in some respects and partly because that's what we aspire to be in those areas where we're not quite there yet. But we really must do something about the mindset that makes us look more like Best Kept Village in South China.