Workers mow grass at the under renovation Dasharath Stadium in Tripureshwar, Kathmandu on Tuesday. The international football venue is scheduled to host the opening and closing ceremonies of the 13 South Asian Games to be held from December 1-10. Photo: Dil Kumar Ale Magar/Republica
KATHMANDU, Sept 4: National Sports Council (NSC) officials are confident Dasharath Stadium will be ready for the inaugural and closing ceremonies of the 13th South Asian Games (SAG) in December of this year.
The officials say renovation work on the stadium is nearing its “final stages”. After three postponements, NSC is determined to host the Games in December.
The South Asian biennial multi-sport event is scheduled for December 1 to 10 -- only three months away--and timely completion of this major infrastructure damaged by the 2015 earthquakes is a matter of prestige for the national sports governing body and the country as well.
Although NSC has vowed to complete the stadium on time, national and international sporting bodies are still concerned about Nepal’s ability to host the Games that will bring together thousands of athletes from seven South Asian countries. They will compete in 27 different sporting events.
SAG is South Asia’s biggest sporting extravaganja, and its 13th edition was originally scheduled for February-March 2018. However, Nepal requested more time to ready the infrastructure, following the devastating 2015 earthquakes.
A meeting of the South Asian Olympic Council held in December, 2017 approved new dates: March 9-18, 2019. Later, NSC postponed the Games to September . There was then another rescheduling after failing to meet deadlines again.
Recently elected NSC Member Secretary Ramesh Kumar Silwal is in no mood to countenance another postponement, especially if infrastructure glitches alone are to blame.
“We have expedited the renovation work. We are committed to readying the stadium at least a month before SAG,” said Silwal, adding, “It will be ready by mid-November, no matter what.”
Although renovation work had started before the big earthquake, the national calamity delayed further progress until last year when the government finally sanctioned the money.
According to Arun Upadhyay, chief of engineering section at NSC, an estimated Rs 220 million in government grant has been spent on the upgrading .
“The stadium is being renovated at an estimated cost of Rs 1.5 billion, including 1.2 billion from China and 300 million out of the government’s own pocket,” Upadhyay added.
He further stated that the remaining work will be completed by November and the estimated budget may well suffice. About 100 workers are busy eight hours a day to complete the project on time, NSC claims.
The general parapet is almost ready, with only the seats left to be installed. The synthetic tracks have been put in place and work on the scoreboard is in its final phase, while the floodlights and sound system need only to be tested.
The retrofitting work at the VIP parapet is currently underway. The media center, the VIP room and changing rooms at the VIP parapet have been readied.
Silwal recently went to China to study the quality of the tensile fabric roof, stadium seats and the fireworks for the opening and closing ceremonies. Earlier, he was in India to finalize a deal for steel pillars.
“All the materials required for the VIP and general parapets will arrive by the end of October,” said Silwal, who also visited a number of football stadiums while in China.
“As soon as these materials arrive, we will begin installing them,” he said.“Installing the roofing at the VIP parapet will take about seven days. The seats will be imported in two lots. It will take a maximum 12 days to fix the seats,” he added.
The renovation of the covered hall is also in its final phase and will be ready in a few days, according to Silwal.
Work on the turf has already begun and the Chinese contractor partially handed over the stadium to the NSC on August 30. The stadium will be handed over to the government on October 10.
“The football field will be ready in two months,” Silwal said. Trimming of overgrown grass on the turf started Monday in his presence.
The turf may take more time than expected time to be ready and proper for playing . In fact, a friendly match might be needed before the turf is officially approved .
Once the turf is ready, SAG officials will make an inspection before approving it for the official matches. However, the exact date of the visit has not yet been set.
NSC has also started installing basic facilities such as water taps and electric bulbs at the stadium despite risks of theft. In the past, such accessories went missing within days of their installation.
“We have tightened security in and around the stadium,” said Upadhyay of the engineering section.
The Chinese government took on the responsibility of upgrading the stadium for the Games. It installed the new scoreboard and synthetic tracks and repaired the floodlights. The Chinese contractor will also fix the digital sound system.
The existing synthetic tracks, floodlights, scoreboard and sound system were also installed by China, in preparation for the eighth SAG held here in 1999.
China is likewise upgrading the shooting range and swimming pool at Satdobato for the upcoming SAG.
Nepal has had to shift to away the home games of the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers against Kuwait and Taiwan, scheduled for September 5 and 10, because of delay in construction at the only stadium in the country suitable for World Cup qualifiers.
The return fixtures are scheduled for November 19, starting against Kuwait. Similarly, in 2020, Nepal will host Chinese Taipei, Australia and Jordan on March 26, March 31 and June 4 respectively.
The 18,000-capacity Dasharath Stadium was built back in 1956. After the eighth SAG, the stadium was renovated in 2011 for the 2012 AFC Challenge Cup. The multi-purpose stadium also hosted the 2013 SAFF Championship.