Close to two years, since the Chinese Government handed over the magnificent Bingu National Stadium (BNS), the facility has already benefited the people of Malawi especially soccer lovers as well as significantly contributing to the social and economic development of the country.
It is a gigantic stature of architecture, a true mark of visionary progress and a modern version of beauty. It is another form of art that satisfies the aesthetic need of every eye.
The spectacular sparkle of steel metals arches into the blue sky. It is stunning. It radiates the heart of the warm heart of Africa, Lilongwe City.
Standing tall at 56 metres from the ground to the middle point of the arch, Bingu National Stadium (BNS) peers down to people and houses in a majestic way. A colossus.
BNS has been hosting dosens of both sporting and non-sporting-events leading to alot of social and economic benefits attached to this infrastructure
Eric Ning’ang’a, the stadium’s manager said the economic benefits from the stadium is huge.
“The hosting of football matches is generating a lot of revenue from ticket sales of 40, 000 plus seats.
There are also many spaces for hire as conference rooms, shops and kiosks,” says Ning’ang’a,
While thanking the Chinese Government for the facility, Malawi’s Sports Minister Grace Chiumia said the development of various sporting disciplines has also benefitted many youths in the country.
“It’s helping the youths to develop with a sound mind through participation in various sporting activities hosted at the stadium,” said Chiumia adding. “Other social benefits include the hosting of events like national independence celebrations and activities significant and symbolic to this nation.”
It is undeniable that sporting activities have monopolised the use of the facility. The hosting of major national and international competitions remains the focal point.
With an indoor warming up ground before going into the main turf and a separate nice practicing ground, BNS has become the mother facility for various sporting disciplines.
For so long, soccer has been the dominant sport in Malawi and by far the most patronised. That status has been preserved and enhanced.
While soccer continue to dominate and grow because of this facility, other sporting activities like athletics are also springing into the fray.
Everywhere else in the world, athletes become world class because of investments made in creating better facilities like stadiums.
The construction of BNS has increased the chances of nurturing the growth and development of many athletes here in Malawi.
“This is a blessing to us,” says Godfrey Phiri, president of Athletics Association of Malawi (AAM).
“We have waited so long for a better facility like this stadium. Our athletes lacked a conducive environment to prepare for international competitions like the Olympics,” he says.
Poor performance at the Olympics due to factors like training on poor and bare grounds would no longer be an excuse for Malawian athletes. At least that is the hope of Phiri.
The artificial international Olympic running track available at the stadium inspires Phiri and the rest of the athletes. And there is an electronic timing too.
Currently, recording of time and speed of any athletic sport in Malawi is done manually. It is difficult, ineffective and often inaccurate that cheating is always inevitable.
“The electronic timing has reduced cheating,” says Phiri. “It shows the exact time an athlete finishes a task in a particular sport.”
He says strategic plans for the next five years have already been set. They include the addition of new facilities like an indoor netball court and swimming pools. These, too, are expected to enhance revenue collection.
“The stadium is paying for itself,” says Ning’ang’a in reference to the US$70 million (about K26 billion) concessional loan provided by the Chinese government to be repaid in 20 years.
Future expansion of facilities to accommodate other sporting disciplines is possible. There is enough land for that.
A total of 40 hectares of land was provided by government. The stadium consumed 32. The remaining 8 hectares is reserved for future projects.
Individuals who took part in the project in terms of capacity building also benefited from the project.
“It was a very good experience for us. As Malawian workers, we learnt a lot from the Chinese,” says Munthali. “Their values of coordination, commitment and consistency are admirable. That is why most of their projects beat the deadline by finishing in time or before.”
Sitting on 32 hectares of land, the national stadium is a modern facility that was designed by experts at Beijing Institute of Architects in China with input from Malawian experts.
“We were involved from the beginning. We developed the concept from which they came up with the design,” says Knight Munthali, chief architect at the Ministry of Transport and Public Works.
After all the ground work like designing was done, construction of the stadium began on July 1, 2013 with the Chinese leading the work and the government of Malawi through the public works ministry supervising it.
Close to 2000 people were involved on the construction site. More than 1000 were local Malawians who provided semi-skilled and unskilled labour. About 800 Chinese graced this work at intervals.
“Foreign expertise came in depending on the nature of work at a particular stage. Whoever has finished would leave,” says Munthali.
There were five divisions working on the stadium encompassing architects, quantity surveyors, landscaping experts, structural engineers and co-building engineers both electrical and mechanical. The work was well coordinated. There was no room for error.
For instance, when it was time to cast concrete, a team of Malawian experts was on the ground verifying that steel is done and laid properly before signing for a go-ahead, according to Munthali.
Thousands tonnage of concrete and steel strengthens this structure. Apart from cement, sand and quarry which were locally sourced, the rest of material including steel came from China.
It was a marathon 29 months of work, free from geological challenges except for the large amount of water found 11 metres down the ground. Preliminary survey of the land had already established the problem and it was taken care of with expertise.
By November 30, 2015, BNS was whole and complete, boasting of modern facilities.
A natural turf obtained from South Africa covers the 100 metre pitch. Floodlights embedded to the arched roof power the pitch. Two huge generators, each carrying 800 kilovolt-ampere (kva), stand guard ready to light the stadium in case of power failure.
It has an up to date public address system too.
There are also 2 well secured VVIP lounges that are presidential and another 2 VIP for senior people like ministers and diplomats with 56 corporate rooms for individual and family booking.
The stadium has also an in-built clinic that will be used by Ministry of Health whenever there is an event.
Moreover, it has two water tanks – about 10,000 litres each, for fire fighting that may become handy for the city council if Lilongwe has no enough water.
On the northern part of the stadium stands a digital score board. It is multipurpose. It can be used as a screen to show movies and when it comes to football, it can be showing the game in progress.
The national stadium needs protection and preservation because it is symbolic to this nation. It is a monument of pride and significance that exemplifies, in great form, the strides Malawi is making in infrastructure development. (By Malawi Voice, Mana)