The imminent closure of a table tennis training centre in an industrial building in Tai Wai has sparked concerns from players and coaches, who have called on the government to find a proper space to train future athletes.
A total of 200 players, including youngsters and adults, and a dozen coaches, are set to lose their regular training courts in On Ho Industrial Building, as Ping Pong Savantas has been ordered to cease operation before June 19 by the Lands Department.
“We are helping to cultivate athletes for the city and to relieve pressure from public facility shortage,” founder and director of the centre Sammy Tung said.
The facility has been ordered to close because teaching and playing table tennis does not comply with the city’s definition of “industrial use”. On Ho was one of 15 industrial buildings that faced heavy inspection by the Development Bureau after last year’s disastrous mini-storage fire in Kowloon Bay that killed two fire fighters.
There is a general shortage of public sports grounds in Hong Kong, and in Sha Tin District most of the tables have to be booked through the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. Tung’s centre has 11 tables.
Dickson Wong, a Form Three student living in Sha Tin, said it would be a great pity if Tung’s centre has to close. “It would be difficult to train as regularly and effectively as I do now if I have to book public tables,” he said.
Diocesan Boys’ School’s table tennis player Kelvin Lau Chun-kit agreed that the closure of the centre would make it more difficult for athletes to find other places to practise. “This will hinder the development of the sport,” he told Young Post yesterday. “Ping Pong Savantas is spacious and its facilities are well-equpped. And a new training centre still hasn’t been established to accommodate the athletes who haven’t found a new place to practise.”
Legislative Councillor Roy Kwong Chun-yu said the government was using “outdated” regulations to punish recreational service providers who contribute to the revitalisation of industrial buildings. He said it focused too much on the establishment of Kai Tak Sports Park, but they should also enhance community sports facilities across the city. He hoped the regulations can be relaxed.