Fri, Sep 14, 2018 - Page 8 News List

National treasures should come before sports

By Jhang Shih-hsien 張世賢

After the National Museum of Brazil’s grand celebration of its 200th anniversary in July, its sudden destruction earlier this month in a massive blaze shocked the world.

Established by the Portuguese imperial family in its Brazilian colony, the museum boasted a collection of 20 million precious cultural relics, specimens and artworks, most of which were turned into ashes, a major loss for international cultural circles.

In a TV news report, a biologist stationed at the museum said in tears that history was lost that night.

Museums across the world should learn a lesson from this loss to prevent a repeat of the tragedy.

Over the centuries, many world-class museums, such as the Winter Palace in St Petersburg, the New York Museum of Modern Art, the former National Museum of Natural History in New Delhi and Paris’ Louvre Museum, have all been damaged by fires. No Taiwanese museum has experienced such a disaster, but there are many things that can be improved.

Take, for example, the National Palace Museum in Taipei, where I worked until retirement. The restaurants inside the museum pose a high risk. Who can promise that the gas used for cooking will not cause an accident, and who can promise that kitchen waste will not attract rats and bugs?

I repeatedly raised my concerns over the past decades, but the problem remains unresolved, which is quite worrying.

Museums housed in old buildings should pay attention to the replacement of electric wires to avoid fires, and they should conduct thorough tests on their sprinkler and fire alarm systems.

When the fire broke out at the Brazilian museum, there was no water in the two fire hydrants nearby. This was sadly reported to be due to cuts to the museum’s budget.

Brazil held the Rio de Janeiro Olympic Games in 2016. However, due to the government’s poor management, the Olympics cost several billion US dollars and, together with rampant corruption, added to an economic downturn.

Such are the problems that eventually led to the catastrophe. It is thus evident that striving for the right to host large international sports games could have irreversible consequences.

Today, there are many things waiting to be done here in Taiwan. Tasks including pension reforms, the long-term care plan 2.0, national defense and arms procurement all require huge budgets, so taxpayers’ hard-earned money must be spent wisely.

The cultural disaster in Brazil has taught us a shocking lesson: There is no need for Taiwan to repeatedly fight for the right to host large international sports events just to look impressive.

Since then-Kaohsiung mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) boosted her political reputation through the city’s successful hosting of the 2009 World Games, many politicians have striven to win the right to host international sports games.

Taichung Mayor Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍) on Sept. 3 announced that the city would organize the first “Asia-Pacific youth games,” which would be held independently of the International Olympic Committee, and Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Chen Chi-mai (陳其邁), a Kaohsiung mayoral candidate, has pledged to strive for the right to host the 2030 Asian Games if he is elected.

In light of the blaze at the Brazilian museum, the pro-localization DPP will hopefully adopt a different perspective. The government should not spend tens of billions of New Taiwan dollars to host such sports events.

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