Time to reflect on a sports stadium in Honiara at the risk of it becoming a white elephant

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DEAR Editor,
Solomon Islands is a nation of sports lovers and does exceptionally well at soccer, futsal, netball and more recently began to show prowess in field and track events.

It was no surprise when the Solomon Islands Government approached Taiwan to help the country host the 2023 South Pacific Games and build the main stadium at a proposed sports arena in Honiara.

The estimated cost of the stadium was given as $US23 million.

During the recent visit of the Taiwanese President and her 100 strong delegation to Honiara last week it was reported in the local media that no mention was made by the President during the visit of any funding by Taiwan for the stadium and many are left wondering if the idea to host the South Pacific Games in 6 years time will have to be shelved.

A sporting venue of the kind needed to host the South Pacific Games could not be built by the Solomon Islands Government alone being economically wounded and perhaps one might now pause to reflect whether, even if major donor funding can still be obtained, it would be practical to build a stadium that could very well become a white elephant like so many have turned out to be in South Africa, Brazil and in other countries that hosted international sporting events costing millions and where the supposed benefits of tourism following the grand events did not materialize.

As soon as the World Cup events ended in Brazil, the brand new arenas went largely unused and had to be adapted to other uses to recuperate losses. The stadium in Cuiaba is now used as a high school and its car park used as a parking lot for the city’s buses.

If the Solomon Islands were to eventually manage to organize the Games there would have to be value for money spent long after the final medal ceremony.

What would happen to the physical infrastructure after the Games for surely maintenance and proper usage of such things as the stadia, arenas, dining halls, sleeping quarters and so on would be a long term legacy?

Could such facilities be effectively re-purposed, reused and beneficial to the community?

A magnificent stadium lying empty and unused following the expensive legacy left by hosting the 2023 South Pacific Games is a situation too concerning to contemplate giving what $US23 million could do to help the prevailing drastic situation in providing medical care and health services in the Solomon Islands.

Hosting the grandest sporting event in the Pacific is one thing but surely if thereafter all one sees is a white elephant, given the outcomes in other countries as I have outlined, then there are other priorities that must be taken into consideration.

Yours sincerely

Frank Short

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