Local School Mirrors Stadium’s Fate

The Olympic Stadium is not the only place where sports fields have been used to barter for development.

In 1992, Baktouk high school gave its football field over to developers in exchange for the construction of a 15-classroom building. The developers then built the Juliana Hotel over the field.

Now sporting students at Baktouk are crowded into the chaos of the school’s main yard.

“They hit walls and windows with balls. Sometimes they hit teachers in the head, hit motorbikes or break small young trees,” says school director Chan Chanthorn.

Many students at this school took their games to the Olympic Stadium when they lost their field in 1992. Now that the stadium has closed, Chan Chanthorn says, they are twice displaced.

She says she wishes Baktouk could have a place set aside for sports. But Phnom Penh has gotten crowded over the years, she says, and the price of land has gone up.

Very few schools in Phnom Penh currently have sports yards, according to the Ministry of Education.

Chief Oum Hoeung of Phnom Penh’s    educational department said city governor Chea Sophara has just ordered construction of sports facilities at six schools in the city.

Athletic facilities at Olympic Stadium closed this week, following a May agreement between Prime Minister Hun Sen and a Taiwanese company to do $3.6 million worth of renovations on the stadium. In exchange for the renovations, the developers will be allowed to develop the land surrounding the stadium.

(Additional reporting by John Gravois)



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