news extract from Thestar:
“GEORGE TOWN: What was touted as Big Bang, Penang has instead turned out to be Big Blow, Penang.
The seats are up, the court is ready, but with the Kings of Tennis event, scheduled to be held at Esplanade here scrapped, organisers are looking at massive losses estimated at RM17.5mil (US$5mil).
The grass on the field near the historical Fort Cornwallis was dug up and the surface tarred before the tennis court was laid. Now, the organisers have to return the field to its original condition.
The three-day tournament was scheduled to start tomorrow and feature former world number one players like Pete Sampras, Mats Wilander, John McEnroe and Bjorn Borg.
However, the Swedish-based producers decided not to send the players to Penang after the local organisers allegedly failed to pay the promised funds.
Yesterday, the makeshift ticketing booth outside the Penang City Hall building remained closed while construction work had stopped.
State Tourism Development, Culture, Arts and Heritage Committee chairman Danny Law Heng Kiang expressed regret that the event had been cancelled.
“Tournament organising chairman Arianna Teoh called me on Tuesday night and insisted that the event would go on. But I am resigned to the fact that the international players will not be coming to Penang.
“The state government should not be held responsible for the cancellation as we only endorsed the huge project, and were not partners in organising it. The initiative was taken by a private organisation, with the state authorities only helping them get the venue,” said Law.
He revealed that the state had waived the RM2mil bank guarantee needed for the organisers to set up the structures at the Esplanade Heritage Site. A check with the Penang Municipal Council (MPPP) office also revealed that the RM200,000 rental for the usage of the Esplanade field has not been paid.
Law said the council would get tough on the organisers if they failed to keep their agreement to restore the venue to its original condition after the structures are brought down.
“Even with the cancellation, the organisers are responsible for the restoration of the field. If they don’t comply, action will be taken against them.
“The Kings of Tennis event is a good lesson for the Penang government to be more careful and we will not simply endorse future projects in the state,” added Law.
Meanwhile, Gerakan Youth Tanjung Division chief H’ng Khoon Leng, who visited the venue, hit out at the state government for not checking the organisers’ background before endorsing the project.
“It is a big embarrassment. I am also shocked that the MPPP allowed the organisers to destroy the field at the heritage site to put up the venue,” said H’ng.
Teoh, a former Miss Malaysia, could not be reached for comment.”