THE Federal Territory Amateur Athletic Association (FTAAA) has urged Permodalan Nasional Berhad (PNB) to restore the track at the Merdeka Stadium.
FTAAA secretary S. Vegiyathuman said the Merdeka Stadium had played a vital part in the development and promotion of athletics in the country and Kuala Lumpur.
“The Merdeka Stadium was the venue where several national records were established. It was also the training and grooming ground for many of the country's former national athletes. The FTAAA were also housed there until the early 1990s.
“It is strategically located and would be an ideal centre of excellence for KL-based athletes. Since 1998, KL-based athletes have been like nomads, shuttling from one place to another for regular training sessions.
“All these problems can be solved with the track being restored at the Merdeka Stadium. The FTAAA is prepared to undertake the responsibility of maintaining and managing the track. We humbly request PNB to give the green light for a new synthetic track at the Merdeka Stadium,” said Vegiyathuman.
The stadium, built in 1956, is undergoing massive renovations at a cost of RM2mil and will sport the 1957 look. PNB have undertaken the responsibility to restore, preserve and conserve the Merdeka Stadium, where independence was proclaimed by Tunku Abdul Rahman, the country's first prime minister, in 1957.
Work on the restructuring of the Merdeka Stadium was initiated after Kuala Lumpur City Hall approved the development plans.
The Merdeka Heritage Trust Foundation, headed by PNB chairman Tan Sri Ahmad Sarji Abdul Hamid, will be responsible for the restoration project.
After its restoration works are completed, the stadium will be handed over to the Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry for the 50th anniversary celebrations of Independence.
Ahmad Sarji said they were prepared to look into the possibility of restoring the track if there were requests and demand.
“The Merdeka Stadium was a vision by the late Tunku as a venue for sports, cultural events as well as carnivals. We are aware, too, that the Merdeka Stadium was also the venue for some of the biggest sporting events like the 1975 World Cup hockey finals, the 1989 SEA Games and the 1998 Commonwealth Games rugby event.
“So if there is demand for a track, we may look into including a track at the Merdeka Stadium when it is restored,” said Ahmad Sarji.
Despite the lack of training facilities, FTAAA have been impressive in local athletics championships. They were the overall champions for the past four years in the Malaysian Open as well as the National Junior athletics championships.
Several athletes from FTAAA have also represented and won medals for Malaysia in international competitions, including the SEA Games, Asian championships, Asian Games and Commonwealth Games.
Vegiyathuman said they were based at the Merdeka Stadium until 1998 but had to move out after the Merdeka Stadium Board shifted their base to the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil.
“We had no alternative as the track was not maintained and there was also no equipment. Since then, we have been utilising other venues for our training and competitions.
“But there are many shortcomings and disruptions to our programmes. Despite the setbacks, we have managed to rule in the Sukma and other Games. I can recall that the Merdeka Stadium had a grass track in the early days and subsequently a bitumen track. The current synthetic track was laid in 1989 for the SEA Games,” added Vegiyathuman.
The FTAAA are now hoping PNB and the Merdeka Heritage Trust Foundation will help them in getting the track at the Merdeka Stadium on track for the future.