Hong Kong gets prepared for Olympic torch relay
A Community Torch Relay will be held on Friday (April 18) to test the logistics, in particular the special traffic and transport arrangements on the road and the coordination among the government departments and organisations concerned, in preparation for the May 2 Hong Kong leg of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch Relay.
Speaking at a press conference today (April 16), the co-chairperson of the Steering Committee of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch Relay in Hong Kong, Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs, Mrs Carrie Yau, said that to prepare for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch Relay in Hong Kong to be held on May 2, this important historical event, our best effort was being made towards ensuring that the Torch Relay in Hong Kong would be conducted in a dignified and orderly manner, completing on time according to schedule.
She said: "The Community Torch Relay to be held on April 18, of course, is a test event. But it is an important test event to try out our route and also the logistics side to ensure the smooth operation eventually on May 2. I hope this will provide to all parties concerned an opportunity to test out the detailed arrangements on the road and their coordination. We hope to eventually finalise the route in the light of actual experience based on this test event."
Also attending the press conference, the Director of Leisure and Cultural Services, Mr Thomas Chow, said that based on the results of the trial carried out on the early morning of April 7 mainly for testing the operation of the convoy, the timing would be very tight if the original route was used. Proposed changes to the route and the operation had been drawn up to reduce the time required and smoothen the operation for testing in the Community Torch Relay.
The Community Torch Relay on April 18 will start at 10.30am from the Piazza of the Hong Kong Cultural Centre and end at the Golden Bauhinia Square at 5pm. The trial will cover scenic spots including the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Nathan Road, Lantau Link, Kap Shui Mun Bridge, Tsing Ma Bridge, Shing Mun River, the Olympic Equestrian Venue (Sha Tin), Avenue of Stars, Victoria Harbour, Legislative Council Building, the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre and Bauhinia Square.
The route will continue to be refined in the light of the results of various trials, Mr Chow said.
The co-chairman of the Steering Committee of the Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch Relay in Hong Kong, the President of the Sports Federation and Olympic Committee of Hong Kong, China, Mr Timothy Fok, said that the Olympic Flame had arrived at Peking, China, on March 31, a prelude to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Torch Relay. Hong Kong took pride in being the first stop on Chinese soil for the Olympic Flame back to China, noting that it would be the second time for Hong Kong to take part in the Olympic torch relay after its previous participation 44 years ago.
He said the efforts by the government, including the Home Affairs Bureau, LCSD, Police Force and Transport Department, and the voluntary sector on the test conducted in the small hours on April 7 and the test to be conducted on April 18 epitomised the harmonious spirit of the Olympics.
Mr Fok also expressed thanks to various government departments and the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association for the support they rendered in the past few months. He wished the Community Torch Relay a success.
Mrs Yau noted that since the Community Torch Relay and the Olympic Torch Relay in Hong Kong would pass through a number of main roads in busy districts, there would be, inevitably, some impact on the local traffic conditions, in particular in the Central and Wan Chai busy districts on a Friday afternoon. She appealed to all fellow citizens to follow the advice and pay attention to notices issued by the Transport Department and Police on the day and urged all to help disseminate the information regarding the Community Torch Relay this Friday to the general public to facilitate their planning and adjustment of their itineraries.
She said: "On the event day, the public are welcomed to watch the Torch Relay along the route but they should stay on the pavements as advised by the transport and police colleagues. They should not run onto the roads reserved for the Relay convoy or get close to the torch bearers. Motorists should avoid the vicinity of the routes of the Torch Relay on the day. Should that be unavoidable, we advise all motorists to plan their routing with due regard to the advice and instructions of the police officers on site or the road signs in case of brief road closures and traffic controls and diversions. They should also drive carefully all the time. I would like to ask those affected people, including students, parents, school principals, and school bus drivers to pay attention to the latest traffic notices broadcast by TVs and radios in order to make suitable arrangements for the picking up of students to and from schools. Those who are taking exams will have to plan well in advance how to avoid the traffic."
To facilitate the Community Torch Relay, Transport Department (TD) will adjust and divert, by phases, the public transport services in areas covered by the route from 10am on April 18, Principal Transport Officer of the TD, Mr Albert Su, said.
Bus service, green minibus service, residents' service and cross boundary coach service will be affected. The adjustments include temporary route truncation, diversion, service frequency reduction, service suspension or relocation of bus stops. Traffic travelling along the Western Harbour Crossing, the Island Eastern Corridor, Island North, Wan Chai and Causeway Bay will also be affected.
Moreover, ferry services plying between the inner Victoria Harbour and outlying islands may be slightly affected from about 3.30pm to about 4.30pm.
The TD anticipated that the traffic conditions from Central to Wan Chai during peak hours in the afternoon may become uncertain. The traffic would be much heavier and congested than any Friday at major trunk roads on Hong Kong Island and even the Cross-Harbour Tunnel.
All drivers should avoid driving to affected or congested areas. Non-road-based public transport services should be used as far as possible. If driving is unavoidable, please plan the driving route carefully, use alternative routes and allow more travelling time. Motorists should also pay attention to the latest traffic news broadcast on radio, television and in vehicular tunnels, as well as temporary closure arrangements that may be in force at public car parks. Motorists are also advised to follow the instructions of the police officers on site or the road signs in case of brief road closures and traffic controls and diversions and they should drive carefully at all times.
School buses operating within the scope of the Community Torch Relay will also be affected. Secondary and primary school students, parents, school principals, drivers and nannies of school buses should watch out for the latest traffic and transport news. They should also make prior arrangement for pick-up and keep in close communication during the day. Candidates attending public examinations should plan in advance their itineraries and allow ample time for transport. They are also advised to remain in the examination centres or the neighbouring areas for lunch and break, and avoid going to affected or congested areas which may delay them for the afternoon examination session.
Also speaking at the joint press conference, Police Senior Superintendent, Mr Michael Chiu Kai-ting, said that Police would endeavor as far as possible to ensure the smooth flow of traffic and to minimise traffic congestion during the Community Torch Relay.
"Sufficient police officers will be deployed for traffic management duties. Brief road closures and traffic diversions will be implemented at designated areas when the Torch Relay convoy passes through. Road closures as well as traffic control and diversion will be lifted as soon as possible after the convoy has passed," Mr Chiu said.
Members of the public can browse the TD's website ( http://www.td.gov.hk
) for more details on road closure, traffic diversion and changes to public transport services. They can also obtain the information by calling the TD Hotline 1834567 or Citizen's Easy Link at 1823.
The majority of the 120 torchbearers who will participate in the Community Torch Relay are students or volunteers recruited from the University Sports Federation of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Amateur Athletic Association.
Ends/Wednesday, April 16, 2008