Gabon recently hosted five-time world football champions Brazil to officially open the newly constructed stadium in the capital, Libreville. Affectionately called ‘Stadium de la L’amitie, or the Friendship Stadium, the new arena will host the final match of the African cup of Nations in 2012. The matches are scheduled to last three weeks.
Gabon is building one other stadium and additional training facilities for the tournament it will co-host with neighboring Equatorial Guinea. The stadium in the capital, Libreville has a sitting capacity of 40,000 while the other in Franceville sits 20,000 people.
An Olympic village in Bongoville, which will house two teams during the tournament, is still under construction.
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Critics have questioned why Gabon has not already completed the infrastructural projects. The head of the National Agency for Major Works, Henri Ohayon, says all of the infrastructural development will be “totally” completed before December.
“The training stadium is pretty well advanced, but in three weeks it will be in operation,” says Ohayon. “In terms of the stadiums outside Libreville, all of them are ready by now and the Franceville stadium will be completed totally in November the 27th or the 29th.”
Ohayon says the construction of roads leading to the stadium in Libreville and other infrastructural developments had to be suspended in preparation for the match between Gabon and Brazil. Ohayon assures that project will also be completed by December.
Theick Aworet manages the technology project of the local organizing committee’s Logistic and Transport Commission (COCAN.) He says the two stadiums, training facilities and the Olympic village will be equipped with Wi-Fi systems.
“We have [a] strong backbone of ICT technology. We have a lot of hotspots in the stadiums and a lot of places in this country, in Libreville and Franceville,” said Aworet. “We have two 155 megabytes in Libreville and Franceville to help people access the internet here.”
Aworet says accredited officials at the tournament will have up to two hours free Wi-Fi internet access, but will have to pay to use the system after the allotted time.
Ohayon says Gabon has invested an estimated half billion dollars ($500,000,000) in pre-tournament preparations.
“When you decide to host such an event, you are ready willing to invest huge capital. You don’t make money during the event. It’s the long term events [that make money],” he said. “We built hotels and those hotels are going to [stop] the shortage that we have been exposed because Gabon is increasing its investment and bringing in people from around the world to this country to deal on the business side.”
He also says the Nations cup will be a “huge benefit” to Gabon for years to come.
Analysts say up to a million people are expected to visit the country during the tournament, representing a boom for the country’s tourism industry.
Expectations and enthusiasm
Officials say the Gabonese people have high expectations of the African Nations cup. They point to the over 32,000 Gabonese who supported the national team during the match with Brazil.
“They are so proud. They have seen what they have built. And I can guarantee that those people are going to talk to their children and future generations, about it,” said Ohayon.
He says his organization will encourage students across the country to make good use of the facilities after the tournament.
“We are going to have concerts, weddings at these facilities. So, [many] Gabonese are seeing the benefits with what the president has done with his promise to give them something that they should be proud off.”