June 22, 2011
The price tag of the new national stadium continues to rise, but its construction has been completed on time and China will hand the gift over to The Bahamas on time this Wednesday, the Minister of Youth, Sports and Culture Charles Maynard said yesterday.
While Maynard, who toured the stadium yesterday, could not say how much the stadium's cost increased over the initial $30 million figure, he said the government had signed supplemental agreements several weeks ago because of the cost increase. He explained, though, that the Chinese government is absorbing those additional costs.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Brent Symonette, who also toured the stadium yesterday, said the $49 million project to redevelop and beautify the area around the stadium has already begun.
Maynard said those external works, which include landscaping, replacing and laying infrastructure and road rerouting, will take 21 months to complete.
Also touring the stadium was China's Ambassador to the Bahamas Hu Shan. Speaking through an interpreter, Hu said he is satisfied with the job Chinese construction workers have done, but said there are still places around the stadium that need to be improved.
"The water has just been connected to the stadium," he said. "So they have to do a lot of other jobs, especially cleaning and other jobs. After the grass has grown it will look better."
Maynard said when the stadium is handed over to The Bahamas a skeleton crew of almost 20 Chinese workers will remain in The Bahamas for one year to tidy up and perform any needed maintenance.
Maynard suggested that the stadium has created increased interest in sports, and revealed that international sports associations have already expressed an interest in having events held there once it is ready for use.
"The interest in track and field and other associated sports has increased as a result of the construction of the stadium, just for the simple reason that more Bahamians want the chance to compete on their own soil in this type of environment," he said.
"The Bahamas Amateur Athletic association has already expressed interest in events in 2012 and 2013, as well as the Caribbean Union of Teachers next year."
He added that the government has had conversations with Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) about hosting World Cup 2014 qualifying matches here in The Bahamas at the new stadium, as well as friendly matches.
"This particular site is FIFA certified," Maynard said. "We have been in discussions with FIFA, considering qualifying events for World Cup and friendly matches possibly between China and the US. "The hard part was completing the stadium. The easy part is gong to be marketing it to the world."
He insisted that The Bahamas is already a destination that has gained credibility in the sporting world and will not have difficulty tapping into international federations that will bring events here to be hosted at the national stadium.
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