Stadium Renovation Contract in Jeopardy

Stadium Renovation Contract in Jeopardy

Last May, government officials and a Taiwanese firm unveiled a master plan that would restore the glory of Olympic Stadium.

The architectural model prom­ised three sets of outdoor courts, parking garages and outdoor hotels around the area. There was, of course, a cost: The government gave the company, Yuan Ta Group, a $40 million contract, evicted dozens of families who had been squatting in the complex for years, and fenced off the grounds, promising to reopen it to the public in a year.

Now, 10 months later, not a brick has been moved on the stadium. Government officials say that unless the Yuan Ta Group begins construction on their project today, officials will move to revoke the contract.

The arduous process of finding a bidder to renovate the complex would then begin again.

“The stadium is still fenced, and the company has done nothing,” said Chea Sophara, governor of Phnom Penh. The stadium, he said, is still in bad condition.

“We thought that the company had enough money to renovate the stadium before we decided to sign the contract. They always told us not to worry about the money,” said Bou Chum Serey, undersecretary of state for the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.

But just because the Yuan Ta Group has not begun the work does not mean it has not tried to profit early from the contract.

The company was given free property around the stadium as part of the deal. It had promised to develop the land for residential housing, but the government has since learned the Yuan Ta Group tried to sell off parcels for $60,000 apiece, Chea Sophara said.

“I’ve told the Chinese As­sociation of Cambodia not to buy the land,” Chea Sophara said.

Attempts to reach the Yuan Ta Group were unsuccessful.

Already, hundreds of people in Phnom Penh have been defying the fences and resuming their daily soccer and tennis matches. On a Sunday visit, two men at the open gate charged visitors about $0.05 for entry.

Under the contract, the Yuan Ta Group will have to write a letter to the Ministry of Education explaining why they have not begun construction, and the matter will be handed over to the Council of Ministers, Bou Chum Serey said. The Ministry of Education could ask to have the contract canceled, he added.

That would be fine, Chea Sophara said.

“To my way of thinking, if they can’t renovate Olympic Stadium, they should at least build a new one,” he said. “The stadium is a part of Phnom Penh and it is very important to the city to restore its beauty. It’s especially important for the young to promote sports.”

(Additional reporting by Ana Nov)

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