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11:47 PM August 26th, 2011

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By: Manolo R. Iñigo, August 26th, 2011 11:47 PM

My exclusive report last June 10 on the proposed plan to build the world’s biggest sports dome in the Philippines has been confirmed by no less than a top official of the construction firm in charge of the multi-billion peso project.
Hanwha Engineering and Construction Corp. vice chair Kim Hyun-Chung recently announced that his company won the contract to build the 52-hectare multipurpose project located in barangay Duhat, Bocaue, Bulacan.
Aptly called The Philippine Arena, the estimated cost of completing the world-class project would be a staggering $175 million (roughly P8 billion). The modern complex is being built under the auspices of the Filipino Christian organization of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC).
Said Kim: “By winning this contract for the building the world’s largest dome arena, our company was able to prove its technological capabilities and the ability to carry out overseas projects.”
Hanwha would be constructing the record-setting project in partnership with Populous led by noted structural design consultant Andrew James and Buro Happold headed by design director Chris Sparrow.
If constructed as planned, the 50,000 to 55,000-seat Philippine Arena would be twice as large as the fabled Araneta Coliseum (now the Smart Araneta Coiseum) in  Cubao which could sit 25,000. Also known as the Big Dome, the Araneta Coliseum was once widely accepted as the world’s biggest indoor sports venue when it was constructed way back in 1960.
When The Arena is finished, it would be bigger than some of the world’s biggest like New York City’s Madison Square Garden (20,000), Los Angeles’ Staples Center, which is home to multi-NBA champion team LA Lakers (21,000); and the O2 Arena in London (20,000).
The Philippine Arena owners have given the contractors to wind up the project by 2014, in time for the centennial celebration in July of the Iglesia ni Cristo, which commands tremendous followers not only here but also with members from around the world.
“The Arena,” stressed my source, “is being built not to make a profit. In fact, it is not even commercialized nor aimed at making money.”
On the contrary, the complex aims to establish itself as a wholesome gathering place for people and an entertainment venue for the whole family, serving as a venue for religious, cultural and sporting events. Besides, my source said, the Philippine Arena could help boost the country’s tourism industry.
Several prefabricated materials of international standards are being used in the construction of the complex, which includes a hospital and a university.
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Failing to act swiftly and decisively at the first sign of trouble, Frank Elizalde, the International Olympic Committee representative to the Philippines, is now being blamed by many for the dispute between the Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Dragon Boat Federation.
Named to the powerful position on July 11, 1985 by former IOC president Juan Antonio Samaranch, Elizalde should have used his clout and influence to remind the warring groups of the dire consequences of their disagreement in the Olympic Movement.
As the IOC’s eyes and ears in the Philippines, Eiizalde could have guided and brought the feuding parties to the conference before the problem became irresoluble. I’m afraid the controversy could very well take its toll on the morale and training of the athletes, especially those who are rigorously preparing for international tournaments such as this year’s Southeast Asian Games set this November in Indonesia.

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