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Sports and recreation have long been important aspects of Hong Kong’s social fabric. Over the years, the development of related facilities mirrored the changes of the city. This article describes the past and present of those facilities in Hong Kong, covering their history, development and current use.

Parks

Parks in Hong Kong are one of the significant outdoor recreation venues in the city, with the Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, Victoria Park, Kowloon Park and Tuen Mun Park each playing a distinguished role in the city’s recreation facets.

Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens

The Hong Kong Zoological and Botanical Gardens, the oldest public garden in Hong Kong, is located on the northern slope of Victoria Peak. Opened as a botanical garden in 1861, the 5.6 hectare site gained its current name in 1975 to reflect an increase of zoological exhibits. Today, the Old Garden in the east contains children’s playground, aviaries, a greenhouse and a fountain terrace garden. All are popular among the public. The New Garden in the west houses mammal and reptile displays that attract a large number of visitors, particularly on weekends.

Victoria Park

As one of the most popular green spaces in Hong Kong, Victoria Park was built on reclaimed land in Causeway Bay in 1957. Since extensive refurbishment between 2000 and 2002, the park has featured a series of all-weather soccer pitches. The tennis courts in the park have been the venues for the Hong Kong Open and international tennis events. Other facilities in the park include a swimming pool complex, bowling greens, a jogging track, basketball courts, a central lawn, a model boat pool and children’s playgrounds.

Kowloon Park

Located on the site of the former Whitfield Barracks, the British stronghold on the Kowloon Peninsula during the colonial era, the 13.3 hectare Kowloon Park was opened in 1970. An extensive redevelopment in 1989 modernised the facilities but retained the allocation of the northern half to active recreation and the southern half to passive amenities. Not that you will want to be passive there – the park features a swimming pool complex, a sports centre, mini-football pitches, playgrounds, individual gardens, a piazza, a bird lake and an aviary.

Tuen Mun Park

Opened in stages from 1985 to 1991, Tuen Mun Park was the first major park in the New Territories to provide a wide range of recreation facilities. At the heart of the 12.5 hectare space lies an artificial lake. A notable attraction is the Reptile House, the first of its kind managed by the Leisure and Cultural Services Department. Visit there and you will encounter everything from Thai Water Dragons to Carpet Pythons and Western Painted Turtles.

Swimming Pools

Hong Kong boasts 43 very popular swimming pools, spread throughout the territory. Since the 1950s they have been providing welcome relief from summer heat. An important development since the 1990s is the provision of water play equipment in many of the pools. 
To extend the swimming season to winter, the Morrison Hill Swimming Pool, Hong Kong’s first indoor heated public pool, was opened in 1972. The city now has 24 heated pools.

Sports Centres

Sports centres in Hong Kong date back to the city’s establishment, with City Hall now standing on the site of the Victoria Recreation Club. Over the years, public sports centres have been established in all districts, offering facilities for a wide variety of activities such as badminton, basketball, volleyball, netball, tennis, table tennis, squash, billiards, climbing and dance.

More recently, the development of new facilities such as the indoor velodrome-cum-sports centre in Tseung Kwan O have been of great benefits to the public. In the near future, a new sports centre at Kai Tak Development Area, including a 50 000-seat main stadium, 5 000-seat secondary stadium and 4 000-seat indoor arena, will provide even more high quality sports facilities.

Golf Facilities

Since its introduction to Hong Kong by expatriates over a century ago, golf has become increasingly popular among locals. Four golf facilities are now available at Tuen Mun Recreation and Sports Centre, Wo Yi Hop Road Sports Ground, Shun Lee Tsuen Sports Centre and Island East Sports Centre. Also available for public use are the three 18-hole golf courses on Kau Sai Chau off Sai Kung. On the courses you will not only get the chance to play golf, but will share space with eagles, egrets, pond herons and even the occasional barking deer!

Cycling

Cycling is of growing interest to many people in Hong Kong. Recently, the Government has been developing a cycling track that will eventually link Ma On Shan and Tuen Mun. In the near future, the Tseung Kwan O Velodrome will be completed, offering a 250-metre cycling track and seating for 3,000 spectators.

In Kwai Tsing district, the Hong Kong Jockey Club International BMX Park opened in 2009, hosts training courses for budding BMX riders.

Skateboarding

If you are a little more adventurous, you might like to try skateboarding. The number of skateboarders in Hong Kong has increased dramatically since the turn of the millennium, and the Leisure and Cultural Services Department manages dedicated skateboarding parks throughout the city. The recently opened skateboarding park in Fanling has been proven popular, and anticipation is building for the opening of another skateboard park in Tseung Kwan O in early 2014.

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