Government has backed down on its earlier plans to allow 60 000 people into Bingu National Stadium (BNS) for the facility’s official launch this Saturday.
Recently, the organising committee’s media and publicity subcommittee chairperson Gideon Munthali was quoted in the Daily Times as saying that 60 000 people will be allowed to witness the activities marking the launch.
He said the decision was meant to ensure that as many Malawians as possible would be able to watch the event arguing that the 40 000 stadium capacity “was for available seats in the stadium which means we can fill in more.”
But speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Minister of Labour, Youth, Sports and Manpower Development Henry Mussa said they had printed 40 000 tickets which will be up for free distribution.
Asked to clear the mist as to exactly how many people will be allowed into the stadium, Mussa thinly feigned ignorance over the earlier arrangement of letting in 60 000 spectators to watch the launch whose pinnacle will be an international friendly match between Malawi and Chinese club Guangzhou R&F.
South Africa-based boxing icon Isaac Chilemba is also expected to grace the event.
“We will stick to the capacity of the stadium which is 40 000 because we want as much as possible to ensure that the event is safe from any troubles resulting from overcrowding. I am not aware of any arrangement to have more than that figure,” he said.
It is unusual for government to print tickets for free events but Mussa justified the arrangement saying it would help to stop overloading the stadium.
“This is part of the trouble control measures. The arrangement is that once those with the tickets have entered then we are going to close the gates,” Mussa said.
According to the minister, the distribution of the free tickets will start at around 6am on Saturday.
“The gates will open early in the morning and the spectators will be collecting the tickets right at the gates.”
The BNS, which was constructed with funding from the Chinese government, hosted the first match early this month when Nyasa Big Bullets and Be Forward Wanderers faced off during the Luso TV Bus Ipite Bonanza.
There were reports that during the match taps in ablution blocks were vandalised but the BNS manager Eric Ning’ang’a dismissed them as highly exaggerated.
“What happened was that some people were ignorant on how to use the taps and other facilities. So they ended up breaking them. It wasn’t intentional vandalism like it has been widely reported,” he said.
To stop a re-occurrence, government has said that it will deploy stewards who will be sensitising the spectators how to use the taps and other facilities in the stadium.
President Peter Mutharika is expected to preside over the launch of the stadium. Other activities will include prayers and cultural dances by Malawi and Chinese groups. n