Thu, Mar 26, 2009 - Page 2 News List

SAC not supporting Games, Chen Chu says

BUDGET BROUHAHA The Sports Affairs Council said funding for the World Games had been frozen because the city had not provided details on how the money would be spent

By Flora Wang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chu (陳菊) yesterday accused the Sports Affairs Council (SAC) of not supporting the city’s hosting of the World Games after the council froze the majority of its budget request.

“I have not seen any support from the SAC, even though Premier Liu [Chao-shiuan, 劉兆玄] previously said the central government was taking the Games seriously,” Chen told reporters at a press conference in Taipei.

“The SAC should give the Kaohsiung Organizing Committee [KOC] an opportunity to account for its budget request ... Without the money, the Games’ project team can’t continue their work,” she said.

Late last month, the SAC slashed NT$270 million (US$7.9 million) from Kaohsiung’s NT$730 million budget request and froze NT$290 million.

SAC Minister Tai Hsia-ling (戴遐齡) said at the time that “many” items on the budget request were “unreasonable” and that the city government had failed to provide comprehensive details of how the money was being spent.

When asked how the city government planned to solve the problem, Chen said: “I’m trying to figure out what to do.”

Earlier yesterday, Chen visited Legislative Speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平) to ask for help. She said the city government would “do something” if she did not see any progress.

In response to Chen’s remarks, SAC International Sports Department Director Chou Ruei (周瑞) said he did not understand why Chen had used the word “oppressive” to describe the SAC’s budget review.

“When former premier Chang Chun-hsiung (張俊雄) decided to provide funding to Kaohsiung to host the World Games in a special budget in 2007, he asked the council to review the use of the special budget in a careful and practical manner,” Chou said.

He said the SAC had frozen part of the budget because they could not tell from the items listed in the plan what exactly the city would do with the money and had asked the city to submit supplementary information.

The supplementary information did not arrive until last Friday and the SAC started reviewing it on Monday, he said, adding that the review was unfinished.

“The SAC supported the city’s bid to host the Games. Why would we want to oppose it now?” Chou said. “As a government employee, we are obligated to look after taxpayers’ money. The budget review will be done lawfully and fairly.”

Meanwhile, the KOC yesterday unveiled details of the Games’ opening ceremony at a press conference in Taipei.

The ceremony will feature a huge fireworks display and light show to highlight Kaohsiung’s status as a harbor city, the KOC said.

Tu Chien-kuo (??, chief planner for the ceremony’s creative team, said “technology, the ocean, steel and light” would be the four major elements of the show.

Show director Lee Hsiao-ping (李小平) said there would be three performances during the opening ceremony, one featuring a giant kite with Aboriginal totems, another featuring Taiwanese folk rituals and a traditional puppet show. The highlight will be a three-minute fireworks display around the stadium that would symbolize waves, Tu said.

New Zealand soprano Hayley Westenra will perform with other international and Taiwanese singers during the ceremony, Tu said.

“The goal is to introduce the beauty of Taiwan to the world,” the show’s chief director Ju Tzong-ching (朱宗慶) said. “I believe international viewers will be touched, while Taiwanese will be proud.”

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