Negotiations are underway between Uganda government officials and the Chinese government over the reconstruction of the Akii-Bua stadium in Lira Town in northern Uganda.
This follows President Yoweri Museveni’s pledge in 2010 to refurbish the Akii-Bua stadium, where he directed the Prime Minister’s office to initiate talks with the Chinese government.
The Prime Minister’s office, the Ministries of Education, Sports, Foreign Affairs, and Lands are in negotiations with the Chinese Embassy.
“We are still finalising details on possible funding from the Chinese government,” a source close to the talks that asked for anonymity told The EastAfrican.
The Ugandan government has requested Chinese firm Anhui Foreign Economic Construction Group Company to draw up model plans of a refurbished Akii-Bua stadium.
The proposed renovations are estimated to cost $124 million. The firm is a favourite to win the contract if the plans are approved.
Upon completion, the Akii-Bua stadium will have an aquatic centre, indoor stadium, training ground and a modern hotel.
“The advantage of the Akii-Bua stadium is that it has a lot of space compared with Nakivubo Stadium. This means that with the Akii-Bua stadium we can have facilities for different sports,” State Minister for sports Charles Bakkabulindi said.
Lira District provided the land, which has been handed over to the Ministry of Sports, for the reconstruction of the stadium.
The Akii-Bua stadium was constructed in the early 1970s in memory of Uganda’s great athlete John Charles Akii-Bua, for his historic 1972 Munich Olympic gold medal triumph in the 400 metres hurdles.
He won and set a new world record of 47.82 seconds — three-tenths of a second under the record set by Britain’s David Hemery in the 1968 Mexico Olympics.
Akii-Bua’s victory gave Uganda its first Olympic gold medal since its maiden appearance in the Melbourne Games in 1956.
To honour Akii-Bua, President Idi Amin named an avenue in Kampala and a stadium in the athlete’s home town of Lira after him. He also gave him a house in the capital.
“We have plans to construct a stadium in each region before going to the district level. We shall add value to the existing stadiums by way of renovation.
"Our major purpose is to tap young talent from different regions in the country. The identification and development of talent will involve the large number of instructors currently being trained in physical education and sports.
"We also intend to use sports as a tool of mobilisation and sensitisation,” Mr Bakkabulindi said.
“We have initiated a programme to rehabilitate existing regional stadiums including Kakyeka stadium in Mbarara, Masaka Municipal Stadium in Masaka, Bugembe Stadium in Jinja, Mbale Municipal Stadium in Mbale and Pece Stadium in Gulu,” added Mr Bakkabulindi.
“We shall run this rehabilitation programme in phases depending on the availability of resources. So far, we have procured a contract for a consultant, who will do the designs and supervise the rehabilitation.
"We shall learn the total cost after the consultant has come up with the designs. Each stadium will have its own budget depending on the level of repairs,” said Mr Bakkabulindi.
Jasper Aligawesa, secretary general of National Council of Sports said: “We, as the National Council of Sports, have been clamouring for sports facilities because the existing ones have been sold off by district officials, maybe because they have not realised the importance of sports.”
“We can attribute this new development to President Museveni’s renewed support for sports. Even our annual budget has increased from Ush400 million ($165,558) in 2009 to Ush2.5 billion ($1 million) in 2011. All we need now are the sports facilities,” added Mr Aligawesa.
Mr Aligawesa is confident that with more sports facilities Uganda’s chances of attaining glory at the international stage will improve.
According to Namayo Mawerere, Uganda Athletics Federation publicity secretary: “It is a good idea for the government to build and renovate the proposed stadiums because we lack modern facilities to carry out sports competitions. Currently, we have very few facilities to carry out our activities.”
Uganda has only two multi-purpose stadiums, Mandela National Stadium (Namboole) and Nakivubo Stadium both in Kampala.
Mandela stadium with a capacity for 45,202 people was built with a $36 million Chinese grant and opened in 1997. Nakivubo stadium has a capacity for 15,000 people.
Additional reporting by Miriam Busingye.