Environmental issues. A huge and ever-expanding wealth gap. Universal suffrage. All of these are matters that need to be addressed urgently. However, according to lawmaker Michael Tien Puk-sun, our lack of motorsports facilities is a problem that trumps all others; it should be promptly solved to restore order in Hong Kong and ensure the happiness of our citizens.
I’m sure those unfortunate enough to be living in cage homes would agree: what Hong Kong truly lacks is not affordable housing, but rather a high-quality motorsport circuit.
The government, it seems, can’t keep its eagle eyes away from the lush, leafy spaces of Lantau, Hong Kong’s “green lung”. First, they proposed the East Lantau Metropolis, and now this hair-brained scheme to build a Formula One circuit on a reclamation site in Sunny Bay.
At first glance, it seems this newest attraction would boost tourism, provide international exposure, and, of course, bring economic value to the city. That’s certainly what Tien and the Hong Kong Automobile Association would like us to believe. The only problem is that it won’t really do any of those things. As “Asia’s World City”, does Hong Kong need even more attention?
Singapore claims that it makes HK$800 million from its Formula One race each year. What they don’t reveal, however, is that they pay HK$833 million a year to host the grand prix, meaning that they don’t even break even, let alone make a profit from the race. What’s more, attendance has seen a steady decline, from 100,000 per day in the inaugural event to 73,000 in last year’s race. It’s a fool’s errand trying to make a big profit from an annual Formula One race.
The idea seems even more laughable when we consider the races in India and South Korea have already been dropped from the grand prix calendar, while the Malaysian race will be scrapped next year after authorities deemed that it provided no economic value.
Then we also have to consider the other consequences of building a Formula One circuit, such as land reclamation, noise pollution, and the impact on the marine ecosystem.
Building a motor-racing track in Hong Kong, which would require an investment of HK$7.7 billion over 10 years, is a bad idea. It’s up to our government to wise up to these facts and say “no” to the proposal.