Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Thailand sure venues will be ready for Asian Cup

Thailand has given assurances it will be ready to co-host next year's Asian Cup. Thai officials submitted a written guarantee to the Asian Football Confederation guaranteeing its facilities will be ready for the 7-29 July tournament, which it will co-host with Indonesia, Vietnam and Malaysia. "The (tourism and sports) minister had a meeting with all the relevant parties and the budget has been agreed," Chaiyapak Siriwat, chairman of Thailand's organising committee, told Martin Petty of Reuters. "We will open the bidding for the construction rights for the stadium next week, and everything will be completed by March."

An AFC delegation visited Bangkok's Rajamangala and Supachalasai stadiums on 17 October and expressed dissatisfaction with the playing surfaces, floodlights and facilities for players, media and VIPs. It also said organisers had done little to promote the event or generate commercial support and threatened to allow Singapore to take Thailand's place.

The Kingdom's chances of hosting the tournament were first thrown into doubt when the result of an election called to counter street protests against then prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was annulled. That development left the country without a parliament and with a caretaker government tha had no budgetary powers. Thaksin's government was eventually ousted in a military coup on 19 September and the new interim administration has only recently agreed to support the Asian Cup tournament. Chaiyapak said the government had agreed a budget of $1.34 million for seating and upgrades for the Rajamangala stadium, while the Supachalasai stadium will remain untouched as it is only due to host one match. A workshop will be held in December to discuss promoting the tournament, Chaiyapak added.

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