China’s Guangdong province may be known as the “world’s factory” of consumer goods but, over the border, Hong Kong is building infrastructure in an effort to produce something else: local track cycling talent that can take on the world.
Images: Hong Kong Government
Hong Kong is positively bristling with elite-level track and road cyclists, but it had to wait until last year’s London Olympics for Lee Wai Sze to secure its first Olympic medal in cycling, thanks to Lee’s third place in the Women’s 500m time trial.
Earmarked in 2011 as one of 15 national ‘Elite Sports’ to be allocated significant funding and development via the Hong Kong Sports Institute (HKSI) – the Government’s “elite sport training systems delivery agent” – cycling is the beneficiary of an investment quantum that goes well beyond improving an individual’s performance; an international-standard indoor velodrome, with a full suite of complementary amenities, is scheduled to be opened in late 2013.
Only last month, Cycling iQ visited the 2013 Hong Kong National Track Cycling Championships which took place at the existing outdoor velodrome in the New Territories. It became abundantly clear that, idyllic surroundings and friendly atmosphere aside, the velodrome’s hard-to-reach location and minimal facilities would not meet the prerequisite specifications to host international-level events. Most depressingly, spectators were outnumbered by participants.
First mooted in 2006, construction of the new velodrome – located in the Tseung Kwan O Sports Center – finally commenced in November 2012. With a projected cost of HKD1,060,000,000 (USD136m), it significantly outspends other similar projects in the region, such as Malaysia’s proposed velodrome which will receive MYR50m (USD17m) of government funding.
A mere 26 minute MTR ride from Hong Kong Central, the Tseung Kwan O velodrome will be the centrepiece of a 6.6-hectare public space intended to “boost local people’s interest in leisure and sports activities”, according to a statement jointly issued by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) and the Architectural Services Department.
The 250-metre long wooden cycling track, built to international specifications, will be surrounded by seating for up to 3,000 spectators, whilst rooms for media, press conferences and doping controls will also be housed under the wavy roof, whose form-language is designed to reference a cycling helmet. Should only a fraction of Hong Kong’s seven million residents decide to take a small detour to the new velodrome next year, Lee and her peers may no longer be racing to the sounds of silence.
Construction of the Tseung Kwan O Velodrome was opened by Hong Kong’s Chief Secretary for Administration, Mrs Carrie Lam, on November 5 2012.
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