Following the calendar removal of the Formula E venue in Hong Kong, reporters blamed the local authorities for being too bureaucratic. It automatically raised questions inside the Government which were answered by the Hong Kong Secretary for Commerce and Economic Development this week.
To start from the very beginning: the Tourism Commission was informed by the Hong Kong Automobile Association (HKAA) in September 2013 that the event organiser, Formula E Holdings, was interested in staging the car racing event in Hong Kong in November 2014. The Government supported the proposal in principle and immediately entered into discussion with the event organiser and the HKAA to examine the feasibility of staging the event in Hong Kong.
“However, the time frame for hosting the event in November 2014 was indeed extremely tight given the fact that the study on technical and engineering feasibility, financial arrangements and other issues has yet to be concluded. We did all we could to reach an agreement with the event organiser on the design of the racetrack and related issues within the extremely limited time but has not been successful,” reads the statement from Mr. Gregory So.
One of the parliament members asked whether the benefits of such a mega event, resulting in promoting the ‘Hong Kong’ brand, tourism and sports development, have been assessed. Mr. Gregory So acknowledges mega events contributes to significant economic and publicity benefits, but seems not convinced about Formula E, yet: “Owing to the technical limitations of Formula E car racing, we understand that the event’s current scale does not come close to other motor races like the Formula 1, Formula 3 or saloon car races.”
Lack of information
It also seems that Formula E has slowed down the process of acquiring approval from the Hong Kong authorities by not supplying the necessary information. “To date, the event organiser has yet to provide us with concrete details of the races and its associated activities such as the scale, mode of operation, financial arrangements and the number of visitors that would be attracted. As such, we are not in a position to make any realistic assessment on the actual and potential benefits these races might generate for Hong Kong at this stage,” Mr. Gregory So said. He also noted that he examines the outcomes of upcoming Formula E events held in other host cities.
Hosting an event in a city centre of a global metropolis means that many departments are being involved, which for outsiders might look like a bureaucratic situation. When the Tourism Commission was informed by the HKAA in September 2013, relevant departments were informed, including Transport Department, Highways Department, Hong Kong Police Force, Home Affairs Bureau and the Hong Kong Tourism Board, to examine the feasibility of staging the Formula E venue in Hong Kong. The focus was on racetrack design, requisite road works in preparing the racetrack and technical specifications for safety instalments to be provided along the whole length of the racetrack.
Known are also some race track issues. Formula E picked a decent route in the Central district, using roads near Governmental Offices. To close down roads, on a Saturday, seemed problematic as ElectricAutosport.com wrote earlier. “The preferred race route is set on the transportation node of the Hong Kong Island and carries heavy traffic. As such, we need to carefully scrutinise the design, safety requirements and works schedule of the racetrack so as to minimise the impact on drivers and the general public as far as possible,” sounds a response. Concerning the Governmental Offices, the Secretary is prepared to provide necessary assistance.
Cancelled but not forgotten
The elimination of Hong Kong from the inaugural Formula E calendar does not mean the idea is off the table. On the contrary, relevant departments have joined the event organiser to conduct a site visit, which resulted in detailed comments and suggestions on racetrack design in the light of the actual road and traffic situation. “The work in this respect is on-going. We will keep in close contact with the event organiser to look into an appropriate race route”, concludes Mr. Gregory So.
However not confirmed, ElectricAutosport.com picked up rumours about similar issues concerning other cities, even from one which is on the wish list of Formula E, but have not been made public.