Govt puts Games on fast track

Editorial, Normal

The National, Tuesday July 2nd, 2013

 AROUND the world, sporting events are megabuck business opportunities.

Many events are centered around glamorous purpose-built stadiums which can seat tens of thousands of fans.

Although strategically placed at a geographic crossroad between Asia and the Pacific region, Papua New Guinea has missed out on this opportunity big time. Until now.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Peter O’Neill announced that the Government will pull out all the stops to ensure that the 2015 Pacific Games in Port Moresby is conducted in state-of-the-art sporting facilities.

All obstacles, principally financial, that have hindered the development of much-needed major infrastructure for the Games would be removed, he said. 

O’Neill and Finance Minister James Marape jointly gave the Government’s full backing that the development of venues which has fallen behind schedule will be fast tracked.

This is reassuring for the nation’s sports bodies, such as the PNG Athletics Union, which have become jumpy of late and wish to see more than mere lip service being paid to the Games.

But perhaps what is most satisfying is the glimpse the prime minster has given  of sporting life after the Games.

O’Neill gave the assurance that sporting facilities owned by the State but now occupied by individuals, groups or sporting codes, would be compulsorily reacquired by the Government.

Major  renovation and upgrading work will be done on all of them.

The Lloyd Robson 

Oval, home of Port Moresby rugby league and an eye-sore in the capital was acquired and placed under the care of a trust two weeks ago.

The facility will undergo a K150 million facelift.

Yesterday was the official groundbreaking ceremony for Global Construction to start demolishing existing infrastructure at Sir John Guise Stadium ahead of a much-needed facelift.

The Taurama swimming pool and leisure centre has been levelled and out of the dust will rise an international-standard facility. This also, should be ready in time for the 2015 Games, fingers crossed.

The Hubert Murray Stadium, built on reclaimed land and the site of PNG’s Independence Day declaration, will also be compulsorily acquired by way of a K25 million offer to the Motu-Koitabu Assembly (MKA) which has made the stadium its home for a long time now.

This stadium is also in urgent need of an upgrade and although one does sympathise with the assembly chairman’s assertion that it is being chased out, we believe owning and having its own premises is a far better option for the assembly.

Assembly chairman Miria Ikupu said he has been served an eviction notice to vacate the MKA offices at the stadium.

“After sacrificing the majority of our land in the name of development for the country, we are now forced to give to the State the only asset we have left,” Ikupu said yesterday.

“This is an unthinkable, unacceptable and improper way of acquiring the only piece of land that we own in the city which also houses our assembly office.  

“Where will we go if we are forced to vacate?”

We sympathise with Ikupu but there is a better option perhaps. No self respecting metropolitan council wants to operate out the back of a sports stadium.

It would be better to negotiate with government, while the offer is still on the table to see whether it is sufficient to pay for a new assembly building.

As to the MKA’s plans to develop the stadium, perhaps State backing is needed at this late hour to fast track development so that the stadium is ready in time for the 2015 Games.