Saturday, January 20, 2007

Anyone For Handball?

A metro system for Zagreb might still be many years away, but the metropolis might soon share a less welcome characteristic with the Gazette's home town of London: losing out on hosting a world sporting championship because the venues weren't ready in time.

London had to hand over the 2005 World Athletics Championships to Helsinki because the British government abandoned a planned new stadium at Picketts Lock and the IAAF didn't much fancy shifting it to Sheffield; Zagreb's flagship event - in partnership with five other Croatian cities - is supposed to be the men's handball world championships in 2009, for which seven new stadia with between 3,000 and 12,000 seats each need to be built.

However, the Croatian government's decision to bypass the usual process of public tender for building projects so that the stadia can be built quicker has turned into the scandal of the week, and the government's U-turn yesterday takes the process back to square one - with proposals to reduce the number of host cities or even handle the whole thing from Zagreb, and crossed fingers that the International Handball Federation will be more patient than the IAAF.

Now Jurica Pavičić in Jutarnji list has questioned why the Croatian state puts such emphasis on sport in the first place:

'For the sake of sport, the Croatian administration is willing to amputate part of a military base and expropriate agricultural land. For the sake of sport, magnificent buildings get built which are not a realistic priority. [...] Nobody except sport has that sort of social power in our society - not science, not technology, not business, not art. Try and imagine in your wildest dreams a situation like what we have today with handball except that the reason is not sport. Try, for instance, to imagine the authorities expropriating a navy yard or preparing a special law because they want to - let's say - build a top-class brain institute.'

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