Page last updated at 17:47 GMT, Monday, 1 February 2010

Angola seeking future for football stadia

By Louise Redvers
BBC News, Luanda, Angola

The new stadium at Benguela.
There were plenty of spare seats for many of the matches

With the football over and the last players and journalists making their long and expensive journeys home, Cup of Nations host Angola is now faced with a new challenge - how to avoid the Athens-effect.

Built by Chinese construction companies at a cost of $600m (£380m) the four super-modern facilities, which seat between 20,000 and 50,000 people are now empty.

And there are fears they could fall out of use, as has happened with some of the facilities built for the 2004 Olympics in the Greek capital.

It would be hard to find sufficient uses for the venues in Luanda, Benguela, Lubango and Cabinda to make them profitable, Angolan economist Justino Pinto de Andrade warned.

"I have a big fear that these facilities will go into disrepair because the sporting activity in Angola is not sufficiently dynamic to guarantee occupation of the stadiums and their maintenance," he said.

'Big concern'

He compared the football grounds to the basketball pavilions built for the continent's Afrobasket championship which Angola hosted in 2007, some of which are now falling into disrepair.

We need to take steps so they don't become a deadly weight on the state
Gonçalves Muandumba
Angola's Youth and Sports Minister

"It is like the grass that is laid in public gardens in Luanda," Mr Pinto de Andrade added ruefully. "It was laid but not cared for and we are left with ruined grass."

The Angolan government told the BBC it had learned its lesson from the basketball pavilions, and that a public company would be established to to oversee the running and maintenance of the four new football stadiums.

An man painted in the colours of the Angolan flag
Angola says the event was good for national pride

"The management of the stadiums is a big concern of the government," insisted the country's youth and sports minister, Gonçalves Muandumba.

"We need to take steps so they don't become a deadly weight on the state so special attention will be paid to how they are used, their maintenance and their profitability."

Three of the four stadiums have athletic tracks which should put them in more demand.

But Luanda's stadium lies 17km outside the city centre - easily two hours in the capital's notorious traffic - so whether it will be well-used remains to be seen.

Angola has spent more than $1bn (£620m) on hosting the tournament with large amounts of money going into building basic infrastructures destroyed during the war like roads and airports.

It was the largest event to be hosted in the country since a 27-year civil war ended in 2002- and was seen a chance for Angola to relaunch itself on the African and global stage.

Mr Pinto de Andrade believes the tournament has been a positive investment for Angola - in terms of the infrastructures gained and the boost it has given both to sport and national pride.

But he said it was essential to maintain the investment, so that the initial outlay does not go to waste.

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