Open up stadiums for public use

  • Letters
  • Tuesday, 16 Jul 2019

HAS anyone wondered why a public-funded (by taxes) stadium keeps the public away from using it?

I can still recall a former sports minister specifically announcing that stadiums across the country are open to the public to use, not as spectators to watch sports, but literally to use them to play football, hockey, cycling, badminton, table tennis, tennis and lawn bowls.

Most stadiums, which have been built in all the states over the years and upgraded annually for the Sukma Games, are typically focused on two major sports, like football and athletics.

Understandably, the football turf has to be intensively maintained and therefore public use of it has to be limited and strictly supervised.

However, my bone of contention is with the running track in stadiums, which of course is a completely different issue. The synthetic – usually Tartan – athletic track surface only needs resurfacing after 10 to 15 years even if used frequently by athletes. But stadium governing bodies jealously guard and close the stadium to track and field athletes if they are not elite athletes, representing the country or state.

To my knowledge, somewhat a bigger joke is that even national and state veteran (master) athletes, many of whom are taxpayers, are barred from using the stadiums.

A case in point: there is a master athlete who brought honour and glory representing the state and country for more than three decades, winning four silver and four bronze medals at the World Masters Athletics or Games Championships, and seven gold medals at the Asian Champion­ships – and he has been denied permission to use the stadium.

Last September I was fortunate to witness the athletics events at the Perak Sukma Games. In the evenings after the last event, it was heartening to see children enthusiastically running on the track imagining that they were also participants.

In my mind, I was thinking if only the authorities would open the stadium to schoolchildren to use every day and, who knows, a local Usian Bolt might emerge one day.

In this respect, schools should be allowed to hold their sports days in the stadium so that all students will get the opportunity to run on synthetic tracks instead of grass.

I often hear public outcries over the closure of stadiums to the public, whereas in other cities such as Durban, Gateshead, Brisbane, San Sebastian, Linz, Riccione, Turin, Lyon, Sacramento, Perth, Sydney, Melbourne, Auckland, Singapore, Seoul, Okinawa, Kitakami,

Rugao, Bangalore, Chiangmai, Bangkok (which I have personally experienced, using the running tracks), stadiums are open to the public.

What is the rationale of preserving stadiums – which are community facilities and public funded – as white elephants that are frequently only used by a minority of the population?

It is timely for our incumbent Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq Syed Abdul Rahman to address this key question and seriously look into the issue of inclusiveness in the use of stadiums.

Hopefully, every stadium will be made a public domain or entity and accessible to everyone without discrimination, especially of the rakyat who rightfully are entitled to use them.



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