The pulverized sports city of Beirut has risen from the ashes of the 1975-1990 civil war to host the 8th Pan-Arab Games of 1997, a majestic monument in Prime Minister Rafik Hariri reconstruction drive.
Some $75 million, 120,000 cubic meters of concrete and 13,000 tons of iron have been utilized to re-erect the sprawling center across 120,000 square meters of space in Beirut Bir Hassan residential neighborhood, said the project top superintendent Ibrahim Dasouki.
Work is almost complete. Nearly 1,000 workers, technicians and engineers are toiling around the clock to put the final touches on the quake-proof compound that was flattened by merciless air bombardment during Israel 1982 invasion of Lebanon.
The three-storey reborn ranks among the most impressive sports centers in the Middle East, bearing unmistakable architectural touches of the prime minister, a universally acclaimed construction genius.
Officials at the site say Hariri has suggested the tall, arc-topped designs of the 56 entrances and exits that are designed to clear out a capacity crowd of 54,000 inside of eight minutes in case of a panicky stampede.
It has taken three years to finish the first stage of reconstruction. The city now has an Olympic football (soccer) stadium encircled by a 400-meter athletics track and ringed by public stands with blue plastic chairs to accommodate 50,000 spectators.
The stadium spans 50,000 sq.m. of space with 77,000 sq.m. of covering roofs and seven kilometers of fences. A presidential gallery of 37 seats towers over the pitch, fenced off by bullet-proof glass.
A 600 square-meter parking lot was built inside the city and another 20,000 square-meter lot outside. The structure is capable of absorbing earthquakes up to 8.6 degree on the Richter scale.
Administration offices, a complex for Lebanon’s Olympic committee and various other sports federations, ultra-modern press centers, clinics to handle emergencies among players and spectators with a parking lot for ambulances and fire engines, have been built beneath the stands.
The ground floor houses the players’ locker rooms, bathrooms and drug-testing chambers and sound-proof sites for, interviewing the competitors in the July 12-27 pan-Arab games.
An unfinished part of the first stage is an indoors complex with a 3,300-strong spectator capacity for basketball, volleyball and gymnastics. This part is scheduled to be completed by the years end. The second stage includes an Olympic swimming compound stretched over 13,500 square meters and three tennis courts. Dasouki said the British Trafalgar House engineering group carried out the initial phases of reconstruction works. The company was later bought out by the Swedish Kvarner outfit.
Kvarner says 25 British and 115 Lebanese engineers toiled along with 850 Lebanese and Arab workers to rebuild the sports city that was originally inaugurated by the late president Camille Chamoun in 1957.
The rebuilding decision was taken by a 1994 conference of sports ministers of the Arab League member-states. They were supposed to provide the necessary finances. But only Saudi Arabia, which donated $20 million, and Kuwait, which extended $6.35 million, have honored their obligations. The rest of the $75 million costs incurred so far has been footed by the Lebanese government.
Source: Future Television
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