A bad futsal stadium job
published : 23 Nov 2012 at 00:00
newspaper section: News
The troubled Bangkok Futsal Arena was renamed "Bangkok Arena Nong Chok" earlier this week.
The change of name was an apparent tactic by City Hall to obliterate the bitter memory of the 2012 Futsal World Cup from the 1.3-billion-baht arena.
But Bangkok governor Sukhumbhand Paribatra and his city administration team should know that making people forget about Fifa's rejection of the arena will take more than simply deleting the word "futsal" from the stadium's official identity.
With or without "futsal", people will always remember the embarrassment caused by the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration's (BMA) failure to complete the stadium in time for the Futsal World Cup.
Whenever people think of the stadium, its troubled origin will be first thing on their mind. That could last forever.
People will remember when MR Sukhumbhand spent the night at the unfinished stadium in October to show off his determination to get the premises ready for the futsal matches.
People will remember that workers toiled non-stop 18 hours a day covering the playing field with imported wood parquet, and finished the flooring just a few hours before Fifa officials arrived for a final - unsuccessful - inspection.
And finally, people will not forget how MR Sukhumbhand reacted after learning of Fifa's Nov 6 decision not to use the stadium due to safety concerns.
Instead of calmly accepting Fifa's decision, the governor blasted Fifa for announcing the decision publicly on its website without notifying him first.
He also tried to discredit the world football governing body by saying that Fifa refused to use the stadium because City Hall could not complete extra "VIP rooms" for Fifa officials.
A day later, MR Sukhumbhand was still unable to calm himself down. He said he was considering suing Fifa for causing damage to the BMA.
The futsal arena scandal has dealt a serious blow to MR Sukhumbhand, whose term is about to end two months from now.
He is also hoping to be re-elected to the BMA's top job in February.
The only way MR Sukhumbhand and the BMA can regain trust and credibility now is to complete the stadium to the best of their ability and to make sure it will be of value to the public.
This 12,000-seat stadium must be salvaged, and should not turn into a massive waste of taxpayers' money.
To achieve that, the BMA should forget about suing Fifa, and the BMA should stop blaming others for its own failures.
Instead, City Hall should think seriously about how to turn the stadium into a high-quality sports facility for Bangkokians.
The failure to meet the completion deadline was a disgrace, but a failure to reap the utmost benefit from the facility would be even more disgraceful and unforgivable.
Many people complain that the arena, which is located in Bangkok's eastern suburbs, is too far from the city centre and inaccessible.
Why not use the arena as a sports complex for residents in Bangkok's eastern districts _ an area known to have few public facilities and recreational grounds compared to the inner districts?
Turning the arena into a popular sporting venue for Bangkokians could prove to be more difficult than building the stadium itself, and would require a capable management team to operate the stadium, create activities, and encourage people to use the venue.
While the BMA decides what to do with the stadium, the investigation into the alleged construction contract bid and spending irregularities should continue. The BMA is duty-bound to clear up these public doubts.
Like many people, I was very disappointed with the BMA and agencies involved for their failure to finish the stadium in time.
But as the dust settles, it is important to encourage City Hall officials to make the best of this blunder.
MR Sukhumbhand should complete this task regardless of whether he's re-elected to stay on as Bangkok governor.
The 2012 Futsal World Cup chapter is now over, and it's time for the BMA to write the next pages in the Bangkok Area Nong Chok stadium's history.
Kultida Samabuddhi is Deputy News Editor, Bangkok Post.