Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Korat 90 Pct Ready For 24th SEA Games

By D.Arul Rajoo

KORAT, Oct 9 (Bernama) -- With less than two months for the 24th SEA Games here, the Nakhon Ratchasima provincial government says all venues will be ready for the regional biennial games by October 31.

The province, located about 260km north-east of Bangkok, is also setting aside political differences and concerns on security to ensure a smooth games when it starts on December 6.

Over the weekend, a test-run of facilities and organisational skills were held to show its readiness to play host to over 6,000 athletes and officials, with a countdown event at the King's 80th Birthday Anniversary Stadium.

More than 20,000 people, clad in yellow shirts, thronged the stadium, located about 10km from the city centre, to join representatives from Bangkok-based Asean diplomats to witness the glittering countdown, marked by spectacular fireworks.

"We are already 90 per cent ready and I can assure you all the venues will be completed by Oct 31. We are not so concern over traffic congestion as the schools will be closed and we have back-up plans," Nakhon Ratchasima Governor Suthee Makboon said in an interview.

Suthee said the Games, themed "Spirit, Friendship and Celebration", would be a memorable one for athletes, officials and guests in the race for the 485 gold medals up for grabs in 43 events.

Asked about security concerns as the Games would be held during the campaigning period for the Dec 23 general election, being held more than a year after the Sept 19, 2006 coup, he said the situation would not be as intense as portrayed by many.

The province showed its seriousness in hosting the Games when it appointed Suwat Liptapanlop, a former deputy prime minister in ousted Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra's Government, as an advisor.

Suwat, who commands a stronghold in the province, was instrumental in picking Korat as the host and despite many of Thaksin's proteges being sidelined by the current military-backed government, remains a key figure in the organisation when he took the diplomats on a guided tour to various venues.

The province is building a US$77 million sports complex, which includes two indoor stadiums with the capacity of 5,000 and 2,000, respectively, a 20,000 capacity outdoor stadium, a velodrome and a 50m Olympic pool.

Thailand has allocated 1.5 billion baht to host the Games, with Korat hosting 31 events while the rest will be held in Bangkok and Chon Buri.

Athletes and officials will be housed at the Suranaree University of Technology while the city also has 4,000 hotel rooms for other officials, media and visitors.

The university's Rector, Dr Prasart Subka, said Suranaree would be the nerve centre for the Games as the operations centre, main press centre, international broadcasting centre, security, traffic and accreditation would be located there.

Some of the football matches and fencing events would be held at the university, he said.

He said the first group of athletes is expected to check-in on Nov 28.

The Games opening ceremony will be held on Dec 6, a day after the 80th birthday anniversary of King Bhumibol Adulyadej, the world's longest reigning monarch.


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