Director of National Events, Colonel Godfrey Bess yesterday said that D’Urban Park is ready for tonight’s flag-raising.
Giving an update yesterday from the VIP Stand, Bess said that at the moment they were “about 98% complete” with regards to the actual preparation of the site. “What is left is to do some basic work… minor cleaning up in the area,” Bess said, while stating that they are catering for some 25,000 people.
While the seating capacity of the stands is currently at 30,000, last year, for the 50th Anniversary, the stands were all filled, and persons forced their way through the barricades and filled the perimeter, causing some confusion. However, according to Bess, additional security measures and systems will be put in place to ensure that the crowd is properly managed, and that persons are comfortable with their seating arrangements.
In the event of a larger than expected crowd, Bess explained that there are tents on standby to ensure that persons are comfortable.
When questioned about the maintenance work which was carried out on the facility, Public Rela-tions Officer of the Minis-try of Education, Mondale Smith, pointed out that the works were done according to protocol. They are done at every facility that is being used for any event, especially a national event. “…And as a result this venue is only being prepared and given some maintenance work in preparation,” he said.
“We would like to make clear that we are not spending unnecessary monies. This here had to be maintained and this is as good of a time as any,” Smith said, while emphasising that the works which were done were part of general maintenance.
When Stabroek News visited the facility on Monday, a major overhaul of the floor of the VIP section was in progress along with other works to the stands. A stage was also being set up in the middle of the tarmac and additional lights were being installed in preparation for the 51st Independence Anniversary Celebrations.
Bess confirmed that the floor of the VIP section was being redone and additional lights had been installed on the stands and around the facility along with other “sprucing up” and works to the tarmac.
When asked how much the works would cost the state, Smith explained that since it was a collaboration between multiple ministries, he would not be able to give a figure.
“We had some sprucing up through the assistance from the Ministry [of Public Infrastructure (MPI)]. It is an inter-ministerial approach from the various Ministries, as well as City Hall,” Smith said, while pointing out that City Hall had assisted with the cleaning of the drains.
The flag raising ceremony is set to begin at 10 pm, and is to feature a cultural show, which is slated to involve some 500-800 persons, along with a military parade for the hoisting of the flag.
The Ministry of Educa-tion had announced initially that the event was slated to be held at the Stabroek Market Square, which would have been prepared at a cost of $100 million. However, after public scrutiny, the decision was sent back to the drawing board, and Town Clerk Royston King had later explained that the Market Square would no longer be used, and that Parade Ground was the replacement location for the event. A decision was then taken to revert to D’Urban Park.
Why the controversial D’Urban Park was not initially considered baffled the public, since over $1.3 billion had been spent on its construction. The controversy surrounding D’Urban Park had started early last year after an initial visit by Stabroek News to the construction site of the facility had revealed that most of the stands were built with inferior material and were sporting large cracks and defects.
After weeks of embarrassing disclosures about the poor construction work on the stands, President David Granger announced that MPI would take over responsibility for the project and this saw two shifts working urgently to meet a deadline for the 50th Anniversary celebrations.
Work on the D’Urban Park stands had previously been under the control of Larry London, though the government had made no announcements of his role, or who else had been working along with him.
After MPI took over the project and completed it in time for the 50th Anniversary celebrations, it was later revealed by an audit that the Park had incurred costs of some $1.3 billion to construct. Despite this cost, a year later the facilities are grossly underutilised and have become a popular spot for vagrants.