Bureaucracy stopped Hong Kong hosting Formula E Championship

Updated: 2013-12-16 05:50

By Eddy Li(HK Edition)

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Intended to be the highest class of competition for one-make, single-seat, electrically powered racing cars, the FIA Formula E Championship has chosen 10 host cities for its inaugural event. These include Beijing, Putrajaya, Rio de Janeiro, Punta del Este, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Miami, Monte Carlo, Berlin and London. The list was changed at the last minute on Dec 4 - replacing Hong Kong with Rio de Janeiro.

Having some knowledge of Formula E, I believe it is an event Hong Kong should really fight for. First, it is different from the noisy Formula 1 races which produce up to 147 decibels (dB). Formula E produces only 80 dB - 10 dB lower than the noise of a moving bus. Second, the cars have to be electrically powered, so no harmful pollutants are emitted. This will help future promotion of clean resources. Third, the racing track for Formula E is usually regulated to be within 2.5 to 3 kilometers. This means no large-scale temporary road closures are needed. So it has less impact on traffic during rush hours. Fourth, the event is still in its start-up phase. It only needs the host city to provide a suitable track and it doesn't require large amounts of money. In addition, such an event will help Hong Kong become a more attractive city for hosting sports. It will also boost its international image, help tourism, and provide economic dividends.

But unfortunately, the FIA announced that Rio would replace Hong Kong as the third stop of the inaugural season. According to Lawrence Yu, president of the Hong Kong Automobile Association (HKAA), Hong Kong was initially considered to host the race during the 2014-15 season of the Formula E Championships. But due to inadequate preparations, including an unsatisfactory race track design, Hong Kong was eliminated by the World Motor Sport Council.

Actually, the substandard racing track at Central Harbourfront was not selected in the original proposal by the HKAA. Instead, the Lung Wo Road was preferred because it was of a higher standard. Nevertheless, the government negated the track plan fearing it might impede access to the Government Secretariat and PLA building. In response, the HKAA put forward revised plans - 10 times. Sadly, these were all rejected by the government. The final decision was just an emergency plan which has not been considered.

Bureaucracy stopped Hong Kong hosting Formula E Championship

The principal reason for this is bureaucracy. Any proposals, whether urgent or not, or however beneficial to Hong Kong, are required to undergo all sorts of departmental examinations and approval - usually without exception. Because of the deteriorating political environment, different departments want to avoid criticism by taking on less projects. As a result, the government is not flexible enough to host events like Formula E.

I hope the HKAA can learn from this and succeed in the second championship application next year. I suggest the government try to reduce bureaucracy so Hong Kong can attract more important events which will benefit our city.

The author is vice-president of the Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong.

(HK Edition 12/16/2013 page9)