SCMP Saturday, September 29, 2001
Disney plans talks on 2008 Beijing theme park
EXCLUSIVE by LEIGH JENKINS in Beijing and STELLA LEE
Disney officials have scheduled talks with Beijing over a possible theme park in the city that would open in time for the 2008 Olympic Games, a tourism official confirmed yesterday.
A meeting between the two sides had been agreed for next month but was cancelled because some US participants were reluctant to fly after the terrorist attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania, Wang Xing, domestic affairs director of the Beijing Tourism Administration, told the South China Morning Post.
The revelation comes weeks after Disney chief executive Michael Eisner dismissed as "erroneous" earlier reports that Beijing would get its own Disney theme park in time for the 2008 Olympics.
On September 7, Mr Eisner said: "Our job now is to get Hong Kong's theme park working, get it built, and make it a success."
Chief Secretary Donald Tsang Yam-kuen added soon afterwards: "They [Disney] said they would let the one in Hong Kong be mature and up and running before thinking about another."
Mr Eisner's remarks earlier this month were thought to have ended speculation that Beijing would gain its own Disney theme park for the Games.
Hong Kong's Disneyland is due to open in Penny's Bay, Lantau, in 2005, although Mr Eisner admitted that, with "slippage", it might not open until the following year. Hong Kong beat Shanghai and Zhuhai in 1998 for the right to house China's first Disneyland.
Speaking of the planned Beijing talks, Mr Wang said yesterday: "We were eagerly looking forward to hosting a meeting at the end of October that would thrash out the various issues regarding building a major theme park inside the 1,215-hectare Olympic Green, and Disney is one of the major partners we've been courting.
"But unfortunately we had to put the meeting on hold indefinitely, because none of the executives or experts who planned to attend wanted to board a plane right now."
He added: "We're ready and willing to resume talks as soon as possible."
The experts, mostly from US-based companies, represented more than 80 companies involved in amusement park construction, engineering, tourism and financing.
"While we haven't got to the point of deciding if we will build another Disneyland . . . we will certainly want the company to be a very big name," Mr Wang said.
There is no clause in the 1999 contract between the SAR Government and Disney stipulating that there cannot be another Disneyland on the mainland, nor does it state that Hong Kong cannot launch a competing amusement park.
A spokeswoman for the Economic Services Bureau said last night: "We have not received any information from Disney that it would build another theme park in Beijing."
Mr Wang denied a Disneyland built in Beijing would compete with Hong Kong's park.
"Ultimately the people who will converge on Beijing in 2008 will be tourists from all over the world, whereas most of the visitors to the park in Hong Kong will be Chinese," he said.
Walt Disney Company Asia Pacific's regional director of corporate communications, Irene Chan Man-tuen, declined to comment on Mr Wang's remarks. "We've always stated that two theme parks in China is a possibility. Right now, our focus is to open the Hong Kong Disney project in 2005/2006," she said.