At least when Toronto’s post-SARS gig made a loss there was a promoter to pick up the tab. Politicians in Hong Kong are getting concerned that the tax payer will lose out if, as they increasingly suspect, the post-SARS Harborfest doesn’t go according to plan.
As previously reported, the Harborfest, which begins on 17 October, is intended to act as a morale boost for the city after the economic problems caused by the SARS outbreak earlier this year. Among the stars lined up to play are Prince, Jose Carreras, Westlife and Neil Young. But politicians there are getting concerned about the taxpayer funded event. Reports suggest ticket sales aren’t going well, there are allegations international acts are getting big fees while local acts are expected to perform almost at cost price, and then on Friday the Rolling Stones, headliners at the Toronto show, pulled out after a dispute over contracts and fees.
One politician – Emily Lau – has described the event as a ‘fiasco’ saying:
“This is taxpayers money and it belongs to Hong Kong people. If the money has been spent wisely then we will applaud it, but we don’t know that it has.”
Another legislator, Fred Li, called the government’s decision to bankroll the event a “blunder”, adding: “Organisers have set aside 3,000 seats at some of the shows for foreign visitors but the Tourism Board has admitted that it cannot attract long-haul visitors due to the short period of time.”
Mike Rowse, director general of InvestHK, who are overseeing the event, defended the Harborfest. Telling reporters the Rolling Stones’ withdrawal was not a “mortal wound” and their appearance was “not essential to the event being successful”, he added that the government would not spend more than HK$100m (£7.8m) on the season (though he didn’t comment on the fact that’s HK$20m more than the original budget!).