Hong Kong in talks with Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami to arrange more activities during their visit to city: tourism chief

Hong Kong in talks with Lionel Messi’s Inter Miami to arrange more activities during their visit to city: tourism chief

Hong Kong is in talks with US football club Inter Miami, captained by Lionel Messi, to arrange more activities during the team’s visit to the city this week, the tourism minister has said.

Separately, the city’s finance chief on Sunday revealed a new interdepartmental coordination group tasked with overseeing major events in the city would “remove barriers and ease restrictions” in different areas to maximise economic and social benefits.

“Through a series of international conferences with different themes and characteristics, we will further strengthen exchanges between our local industry and partners from mainland China and the international community,” Financial Secretary Paul Chan Mo-po said on his blog.

“We will actively invite guests and let them experience the unique charm and cultural atmosphere of Hong Kong themselves so that the city can expand its circle of friends.”

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Artwork on display at Art Basel in March 2023. The international fair is among 80 events set to take place in the city this year. Photo: Elson Li

The coordination group is the government’s latest effort to bolster the city’s appeal for hosting more large-scale events.

Inter Miami’s visit in the coming week is among more than 80 major events to be held in the city in the first half of the year, including festival celebrations and trade-related fairs such as Art Basel, the Hong Kong International Cultural Summit and pop culture exhibition ComplexCon.

The football club will hold an open training session at the Hong Kong Stadium in Causeway Bay on Saturday and play a friendly match against a local select team the following day.

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The trip will be led by club captain Messi, with players such as forward Luis Suarez, midfielder Sergio Busquets and defender Jordi Alba also visiting the city. Tickets for the match are already sold out.

Secretary for Culture, Sports and Tourism Kevin Yeung Yun-hung on Sunday said the government would use the trip as an opportunity to promote Hong Kong as the spotlight would be on the city during Messi’s stay.

“We are also thinking about how to promote tourism and promote Hong Kong, and whether we can mix in some cultural activities [during their stay],” he told a radio programme.

“Of course, we wish to take them around the city so that their visit can indirectly help with some publicity.”

Yeung stressed that the discussions were still in the preliminary stage and no details were available at the moment.

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A drone performance over Wan Chai’s waterfront taking place this weekend. Photo: Handout

“We must also take into account that they have different considerations themselves, so the discussion process has been complicated sometimes,” he said, adding that the government would respect Inter Miami’s time and wishes.

Critics have slammed Hong Kong authorities for lagging behind other places in lifting travel restrictions after the coronavirus pandemic, saying organisers of mega events had opted for locations such as Singapore instead.

Yeung urged the public to refrain from making comparisons based on location, as different factors were often considered during the selection process for each event.

“You can definitely focus on one particular event and ask why Singapore was chosen as the location and not Hong Kong, but we can also find many events that will be held in Hong Kong but not in Singapore,’ he said.

Lionel Messi will play for Inter Miami in Hong Kong ‘save for illness or injury’

British rock band Coldplay is currently in Singapore as part of its “Music of the Spheres” world tour. American superstar Taylor Swift will also visit the city state for her Eras concert tour.

A large-scale drone show is being held over Wan Chai’s waterfront this weekend, with more than 1,000 quadcopters choreographed to recreate Hong Kong’s skyline and neon signs to celebrate Lunar New Year.

Yeung said the 80 major events would demonstrate that Hong Kong was capable of hosting large-scale shows following the Covid-19 pandemic, as well as attract more tourists and create jobs.

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He added he hoped to leverage Inter Miami’s visit to promote the development of sports in the city.

The tourism chief earlier revealed that some players from the club would meet young local athletes to encourage them to pursue their football dreams.

He added that the Tourism Board would serve as a window to connect with organisers from around the world and strive to convince them to host major events in the city.

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