Hong Kong Expats
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Discover Hong Kong: Uncover the Formula E Blocking Screens

It’s as though a large movie screen was set up at a town square and people who go around to enjoy its space are led away, covering it to prevent curious people who don’t pay a viewing fee from taking a sneak preview.

That’s similar to how the arrangement of this weekend’s FIA Formula E Hong Kong ePrix will unfold. Police say blocking screens will be set up from outside the racing grounds to prevent non-ticket holders from taking a free view.

The problem is that this is a race of electric-powered cars and not a fixed movie screen, which means outsiders who don’t have as good viewing platform as paying guests won’t enjoy the view as much. Why should they? The event has a budget of reportedly $300 million so there’s no space for freeloaders.

The Formula E format requires races to be held at street circuits and not on permanent tracks. The chosen venue for its Hong Kong edition is the scenic Central Harbourfront just meters away from the Star Ferry terminal and Hong Kong Central Post Office with the racetrack approximately 2 kilometers long. With the Hong Kong Tourism Board’s support, organizers can have wide reach to promote it.

But since the location is not remote and a nearby bridge provides an ample view of the tracks, overzealous organizers will cover the race away from non-paying folks. This includes the pedestrian overpass to be covered with blocking screens also disguised as a protective layer that help prevent objects from falling into the tracks and potentially disrupting the race. If it means anything to outsiders, the screens that obstruct people from eavesdropping also shields them from potential noise pollution just as construction sites have noise control measures and highways have noise barriers.

Police will be deployed so that “congregation of people” outside the venue will be quickly dispersed. But it’s not only those who are near the premises are reminded to look away. In fact, a police officer said authorities have reminded managers of nearby buildings, quoting South China Morning Post, “to look out for people attempting to sneak into their buildings in order to watch the race.”

Since blocking screens are to be plastered across the event venues and surrounding footbridges to isolate the event from unwanted views of non-paying passersby, organizers might as well shut the windows of Hong Kong Central Post Office, City Hall and nearby Mandarin Oriental, HSBC and Bank of China towers to make the race a truly exclusive event and a fair one to paying viewers.

“It is not that we don’t want people to enjoy this inaugural racing event in Hong Kong,” said the same officer. “But if we let one person stay, soon two people or ten people would also stay.”

As of last check, Hong Kong Disneyland did not cover the sky so those non-paying people outside its premises can’t see the nightly “Disney in the Stars” fireworks. For Formula E, the problem is that it’s situated at the heart of Hong Kong’s business district, that even if it’s held on a weekend, people will still be coming through the area.

If there’s one silver lining to the event, it’s the absence of cars rerouted away from the venue and the promotion of electric vehicles, which of course, we can’t see unless someone will open the lid of that event’s screen cover or buy a ticket to get in.

Organizers forecast that there will be around 18,000 to 20,000 people attending the reach on each day of the weekend. But the weatherman also forecasts “windier with a few rain patches over the weekend and Chung Yeung Festival holiday” so better seal those covers tightly and attendees better be prepared with rain gear — without bringing umbrella, the organizer warns.

And if everyone’s talking about it as organizers want the public to use #DrivetheFuture in social media, we hope it echoes mostly positive sentiment and less of sarcastic ones like our headline.

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