Taipei, Kaohsiung dispute venue issues of IBA World Cup

Hsieh Kuo-lien, The China Post

Taipei City mayor Ma Ying-jeou and Kaohsiung County chief Yu Cheng-hsien were in Cabinet talks yesterday hoping to resolve the contentious issue over where to stage the finals of the 34th IBA Baseball World Cup scheduled for November in Taiwan. Cabinet and Kaohsiung County officials stepped forward recently suggesting that the IBA World Cup’s finals and closing ceremony be held in the southern county, even though it was Taipei City, along with the Chinese Taipei Amateur Baseball Association, that won the right to host the international championship event. Ma and Shiu Yi-hsiung, chairman of the National Council on Physical Fitness and Sports, brought the disputes over the finals venue to the weekly Cabinet meeting yesterday morning. At the Cabinet meeting, Ma told Premier Chang and other Cabinet members that no changes to the current format could be made because the International Baseball Association (IBA) had made a decision on June 2 over scheduling for the World Cup’s games, and the opening and closing ceremonies. Ma, a political star in the main opposition Kuomintang, said the venues have been completely set by the IBA and that, in accordance with the IBA’s schedule, both the finals and closing ceremony will be held in Taipei’s Tienmu baseball field. Shiu at the Cabinet meeting, mentioned that it was Taiwan rather than Taipei that won the right to host the IBA World Cup, adding that Taipei was only the island’s representative, saying that although the schedule has been set, the venues are still subject to change. While Ma and Shiu disputed over the venue issue at the meeting, the Premier did not make a final decision, saying that a special Cabinet panel will discuss the disputes once a month before it could work out a solution. Ma later told reporters that, “As far as I know, it would be unlikely that the International Baseball Association would discuss the issue again. If the central government insisted on a change of the schedule, it would become a very difficult problem.” Ma said if the Cabinet insisted on the change, he would have to adhere to the Cabinet’s decision, adding that he believed the change would jeopardize Taiwan’s international image. Ma described the opportunity to host the IBA World Cup as a precious chance to elevate Taiwan’s international status. He is hopeful that Taiwan residents would cherish the opportunity and would not have the dispute become a joke on the international stage. Ma said the city government has spent NT$46.47 million in updating the Tienmu baseball field and that the project is expected to be completed next week.

It is the first time that Taiwan has won the right to host the IBA World Cup, with a total of 16 national teams participating in the competition for the title.

In response to Ma’s remarks, Kaohsiung County chief Yu Cheng-hsien yesterday urged Ma to allow Kaohsiung County host the IBA World Cup’s finals and closing ceremony. Yu of ruling Democratic Progressive Party boasts that the baseball field located near the southern county’s Cheng Ching Lake is the best in the country, which can seat approximately 20,000 people. Yu said for the sake of national interest, Ma should agree to cooperate with Kaohsiung, adding that the “north-south cooperation” would prove most beneficial for the country. The tournament will cover 68 games, with 21 to be held in Taipei, 20 in Hsinchuang, Taipei County, 13 in the southern city of Chiayi and 14 in Kaohsiung County.