The National, Tuesday November 17th, 2015
Port Moresby’s multi-million kina sports facilities were built with two purposes in mind.
Firstly, the stadiums, fields, greens, courts and the swimming venue were to be used for the 2015 Pacific Games. And in the end were credited as one of the main reasons for the success of the Port Moresby Games.
This required a huge amount of government expenditure (K1.2 billion) and while the people were proud of the group of facilities in the nation’s capital that could rival anything else among Pacific Island nations, they were perhaps not as appreciative of the size and scale of the projects and the effort required to maintain and safeguard them from being run down through over use or conversely become little used “white elephants”.
Secondly, the facilities were termed as legacy venues by the Government because their existence would now usher in what Sports Minister Justin Tkatchenko called a “sports revolution” that would see the spectrum of local sports advance and improve over the short and medium term through the use of the venues.
This vision for the Sir John Guise Stadium track and complex, the Taurama Aquatic Centre, the Bisini Sports fields, as well as the Rita Flynn Courts and indoor complex, the tennis courts and bowling greens are already bearing fruit with the national capital already locked in to host or be a co-host for several major tournaments over the next two years.
The FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup next year and the 2017 Rugby League World Cup are the two major events set to be hosted entirely and in part in the National Capital District.
But while focus is on the big events, many of the city’s competitions, forced to suspend and/or cancel their competitions because of work on the venues had taken up their former areas of activity, are now coming to the realisation that getting back on the field is a process that will take time as the newly-formed National Sports Trust Limited, a body that has been tasked by State through the PNG Sports Foundation to maintain the venues and regulate their use, sets itself up for the long haul.
What sports are now finding is that their new and improved venues are now coming with attendant costs.
Where previously they had paid token amounts for the use of venues over the course of a season, they will now have to pay significant amounts of money to enjoy and benefit from the venues.
One case in point was the Fairfax Volleyball Association which found the price for using the Taurama Aquatic Centre a little too steep at K4650 per day.
A disappointed president Kila Dick questioned the need to charge such high fees for competitions that were basically run on contributions from the players.
He said there needed to be some kind of consideration given by the Sports Trust when deciding whether to charge the full fee or bringing the rate down for those “smaller sports” who struggle to bring in the sponsorship kina and have a playing base made largely of unemployed youth and students.
It is a valid argument because the reality of the situation is that most sports do not enjoy the same level of support from the corporate sector as the more popular codes.
Sports like rugby league, soccer, netball and even rugby union will always enjoy certain popularity and thereby garner adequate support from the State, businesses, as well as their regional and world bodies.
The question that Dick asked is a simple one: If the venues were built for the sports to use then why aren’t they being made available and accessible?
Certainly, it should be a given that all national championships in any code should have the chance to stage their events at any of the big venues in the city. This not only gives the sports a chance to compete in a facility that is of a high standard but they can do it playing against the best from the rest of the country.
The use of the venues over the course of the year must be management properly, there is no argument there but the marginalisation of lesser sports because they simply cannot afford the premiums is a disservice to the members of the whole sporting community who deserve to benefit equally from the facilities.