Na­tion’s dream still elu­sive as Taipei Dome fate in limbo

The China Post - - COMMENTARY -

Is the ill-fated Taipei Dome doomed to fall af­ter the city gov­ern­ment con­cluded an eval­u­a­tion on the closed base­ball sta­dium’s safety stan­dards by sug­gest­ing that it might have to be de­mol­ished?

The cit­i­zens’ knee-jerk re­ac­tion would prob­a­bly con­cur with the city gov­ern­ment’s con­clu­sion, agree­ing that the sta­dium should go if it can­not cope with an emer­gency.

But they might have sec­ond thoughts af­ter fac­tor­ing in the pos­si­ble con­se­quences: the city might have to spend bil­lions buy­ing back all struc­tures in the project from the con­trac­tor, namely Far­glory, only to tear them down; and there would be the ut­ter dis­ap­point­ment that their decades­old dream of hav­ing an iconic closed base­ball sta­dium would re­main a dream af­ter com­ing so close to mak­ing it a re­al­ity.

Ac­tu­ally the or­di­nary peo­ple only have scant in­for­ma­tion al­low­ing them to de­cide whether the safety fa­cil­i­ties of the Taipei Dome park — which con­sist of, apart from the base­ball sta­dium, a shop­ping mall, a movie theater com­plex, a ho­tel and a com­mer­cial build­ing — can’t re­ally cope with an emer­gency.

Ac­cord­ing to the city gov­ern­ment’s com­puter sim­u­la­tions — made public along with the eval­u­a­tion re­port on Thurs­day — evac­u­a­tion of all 142,000 peo­ple when the struc­tures of the park are fully oc­cu­pied could not be com­pleted in­side an hour in an emer­gency.

And there will not be enough open space in the park it­self to ac­com­mo­date all the evac­uees.

It sounds scary imag­in­ing that you’re trapped in­side a burning sta­dium for more than an hour.

But Far­glory would not have any of the city eval­u­a­tions or sug­ges­tions for im­prove­ments.

Far­glory claims that its own com­puter sim­u­la­tions show that an evac­u­a­tion on such a mas­sive scale could be com­pleted in about 26 min­utes. The open space in the park it­self may not be enough to ac­com­mo­date all 142,000 peo­ple evac­u­ated from the struc­tures, but Far­glory says the city gov­ern­ment is wrong in as­sum­ing that the evac­u­ated peo­ple would stay in the park with­out mov­ing onto the neigh­bor­ing ar­eas in an emer­gency.

The con­trac­tor also ar­gues that the city’s sim­u­la­tions are for a full evac­u­a­tion from all struc­tures in a worst-case sce­nario. It likens the sit­u­a­tion to a per­son who has con­tracted five kinds of can­cer be­fore be­ing hit by a car — which it says is very un­likely to hap­pen.

Is the city gov­ern­ment overly strict in its eval­u­a­tion? Or is Far­glory overly con­fi­dent in its de­sign? We can hardly tell.

The city gov­ern­ment has spelled out two so­lu­tions: ei­ther to dis­man­tle the sta­dium and keep the other struc­tures for public use; or keep the sta­dium and re­move the shop­ping mall.

But Far­glory has vowed not to tear down any­thing, not even a sin­gle wall of the project. If the city gov­ern­ment in­sists on car­ry­ing out ei­ther of the two so­lu­tions, it will have to buy back the build-op­er­ate-trans­fer (BOT) project, which could cost bil­lions.

The con­trac­tor, how­ever, says it re­mains open to talks with the city gov­ern­ment to find a fea­si­ble so­lu­tion.

Un­less the city gov­ern­ment ad­mits that it has made a mis­take in its com­puter sim­u­la­tions, it has to stand by the eval­u­a­tion re­port. But are there any op­tions other than the two given to Far­glory with­out com­pro­mis­ing public safety, which the city gives top pri­or­ity in the row?

The two sides might even­tu­ally go to court to set­tle the dis­pute, which could take years and last be­yond the max­i­mum eight-year stint of Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je.

The court pro­ceed­ings could put the project in limbo: con­struc­tion would not con­tinue, nor would de­mo­li­tion pro­ceed.

And the dream of Taipei’s cit­i­zens — and prob­a­bly of the en­tire na­tion — would re­main elu­sive.

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