Hong Kong denies plan for Olympics

by Eric Johnston

Staff writer

OSAKA — Reports out of Hong Kong that Chinese President Jiang Zemin has approved a plan to host the 2008 Olympics in Hong Kong, Macao and neighboring Guangzhou have been officially denied by local Olympic officials.

“There is no bid on our part, and we have no plans to submit a bid for the 2008 Olympics,” Hong Kong Olympic Committee President A de O Sales told The Japan Times.

“There has never been any discussion in the Hong Kong legislature about holding an Olympics here, because the logistics of holding an Olympics are too difficult,” he said.

Sales said the primary reasons Hong Kong is not considering an Olympic bid are a lack of facilities and adequate transportation facilities. “A Hong Kong Olympics would create massive traffic jams,” Sales said.

With Hong Kong out of the running, speculation is rising over whether Shanghai or Beijing, which lost the bid for the 2000 Olympics to Sydney by two votes, will run. In an address to Osaka city officials several weeks ago, Chinese Olympic Committee head Wu Shaozu said China would go after the Olympics when the time was right. But he added that no final decision had been made on the 2008 Games.

There is growing speculation in Osaka business circles and abroad that, should China throw its hat in the ring for 2008, Shanghai would get the nod over Beijing. The city has formed an Olympic study committee and new sports facilities are being built in preparation for a number of large-scale athletic events over the next few years.

In addition, Beijing may be lending political support for a Shanghai Olympics. President Jiang and newly appointed Premier Zhu Rongji are both former mayors of Shanghai and have extensive connections there. Proponents of a Shanghai Olympics say the city is well placed internationally and, with a new airport and other transportation infrastructure projects in the works, could handle the logistics of an Olympics better than Beijing. “We have heard from Japanese companies in Shanghai that the city is seriously considering a bid for 2008,” said a member of the Osaka Municipal Assembly who wished to remain anonymous. “The feeling seems to be that Shanghai would stand a better chance than Beijing because of its internationalism,” he said.

However, if China isn’t in the running for 2008, the chance for Osaka to host the Games may increase, especially if the city promotes itself as an Asian Olympics.