Sports Stadia Are Symbols of Nationhood [opinion]

SO THIS is how the Sam Nujoma Stadium in Katutura overall looks like after being renovated with a huge sum of public money several years ago?

The knowledge that public money was spent on this sports facility is a no-brainer, and therefore should not be the reason for outrage at all. Instead, what should be appalling to every Katuturan (and every Namibian too) is the apparent lack of deacutecor and creativity as well as the shoddy work that appears to have gone in the renovation of this stadium, a potential and vital urban icon for the redevelopment and revitalisation of the Katutura neighbourhoods!

If the renovated Sam Nujoma stadium is the highest standard we can set for ourselves, then what is the difference between excellence and mediocrity? It is a Stockholm Syndrome for our era, and this you cannot miss in Namibia because collectively, we seem to be quite content with mediocrity as a standard of excellence and quality. Perhaps it is an oversight but how else can one explain the public indifference towards the Sam Nujoma stadium renovation process?

The Sam Nujoma stadium’s is a familiar fate for many of our physical infrastructures, which either have remained stagnant with no renovation at all or deteriorated to the point of no return, throughout the country. Look at our old and aging schools and health care facilities! Look at our boring architectural designsstructures for our buildings and roads!

I am sorry to disappoint but whoever is in charge of the Sam Nujoma Stadium, tear that damn thing down and start over again in order to make it better and a more appealing multipurpose facility as well as give it a sense of high-quality architectural outlook.

In this way, the facility would be turned into a new point of reference in the Katutura town life, capable of acting as the centre of attraction and a catalyst for the revitalisation of the Katutura economy.

The same can also be said about other stadiums in the country, especially the Independence Stadium where the largest events in the nation are held every year. This stadium seriously needs a makeover of its own because its current face does not even come close to its national and historical status.

Here is the back story, for those not yet in the know: we are talking about a stadium where the founding president Dr Sam Nuyoma addressed a sea of people (estimated at about 120 000 at the time) after his return from 30 years of exile in 1989. A stadium where the iconic Nelson Mandela, a few days after his release from Robben Island, attended Namibia’s first independence celebration in 1990.

This is also an arena where the son of our soil, Frankie Friedricks, made history. The same stadium where past and present Brave Warriors had their shining moments, and where Black Africa and Orlando Pirates fiercely rumbled it out for years! And, probably most importantly, that is where the colonial flag was brought down and the free flag of Namibia was first hoisted.

It is against this backdrop that the Independence Stadium (or any other stadium in the country) is not only a great source of pride for the city but also a historical and cultural landmark for the nation.

Therefore, we should not just view it as a mere facility for sport events only but also be designed and upgraded in such a way that it can be used as a multi-purpose hub for other social and economic activities.

Doing so, would provide us an opportunity to design it in such creative ways (Here, I have in mind the example of the Istanbul Atatuumlrk Stadium whose roof is the bridge linking Asia and Europe) to include other facilities such as museums, family and children play grounds, health centres, restaurants, book stores, conference centres, even class rooms for physical education. In this way we make it becomes a catalyst for social and economic betterment, and serve as centres for attraction.

While what matters most in sport is perhaps the quality of the gamesport played, but one cannot rule out the appeal and the effect of the venue at which the game is played. Nor can one deny the impact of a stadium on a community and the economy in terms of economic and non-economic benefits.

The former are the direct and immediate benefits or revenues from rental, propertysales tax, aerts, income deriving from employment associated with the facility, and money from tourists. The latter may be in the form of civic pride and positive self-image, sense of collective identity, and the contribution to quality of life.

It is also undeniable that upgrading our stadia may require substantial amounts of funds – the funds we probably don’t have at this moment – but with careful planning (taking into account environmental sustainability), I don’t see why it cannot be done.

One way to achieve this is through a private-public joint venture at government and municipalitycitytownlocal level.

Ndumba J Kamwanyah is a lecturer in the Department of Human Sciences-Social Work at the University of Namibia. His work examines the intersection between policy and governance. The views expressed are entirely his own.

Source : The Namibian