Cuba & Costa Rica Blog
About this blog
Written by Cuba and Costa Rica expert Christopher P. Baker, this blog will update readers on life in these two diverse and exciting countries.
- Last blog post on Costa Rica and Cuba
- First-ever group motorcycle tours of Cuba successful
- Cuba’s Mariel port readying for Panama Canal expansion
- Musings on wildlife encounters on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula
- Cuba’s Steam Trains puffing their last gasp
- My top five thrilling activities in Costa Rica
- Cuba’s fun February festivals include Harleys, Books, Cigars
- Five top volcano viewing experiences in Costa Rica
- New road along Costa Rica / Nicaraguan border mired
- Cuba’s Hotel Campoamor at Cojímar to be restored?
- Cuban revolutionary Celia Sánchez honored in new book
- Christmas challenge for Costa Rica’s sexually abused girls
- Costa Rica opens Chinatown in downtown San José
- David Soul films Hemingway’s car restoration in Cuba
- National Geographic Expeditions receives license for Cuba tours
Costa Rica’s National Stadium opens with major events
The stadium, at the west end of the park, has been in the making for three years, ever since China promised to fund and build a replacement to the creaky old eyes-sore that existed before. What was in it for China, you ask? Well, one of Costa Rica’s prime benefactors used to be Taiwan, which funded construction of the 780-meter-long Puente de Amistad con Taiwan (Friendship with Taiwan Bridge), which opened in 2003 across the Tempisque River. China, no doubt, sought to undercut Taiwan’s sway (the former regards the latter as a renegade province).
Thus, Chinese construction workers were flown in to build the $100 million, 35,000-seat stadium, toiling away 24/7 in three day shifts. The ground-breaking was held on March 12, 2009.
The state-of-the-art triple-tier stadium, with is aerodynamic styling and retractable roof, and two mammoth TV screens, opened only four months behind schedule – a record in notoriously behind-schedule Costa Rica.
The official opening kicked-off last Saturday at 6 pm, with 35,000 soccer fans and a star-studded cast of Costa Rican and Chinese politicos in attendance.
Fireworks exploded overhead. Attendees were treated to the to-be-expected binational displays by Chinese and Costa Rican musicians and dancers. And two Costa Rican presidents gave speeches.
Many Costa Ricans booed when former Costa Rican President Oscar Arias rose to speak about the significance of the inauguration and of Costa Rica’s relationship with China. It was Arias who in 2007 dumped long-term benefactor Taiwan in favor of its far wealthier and more powerful neighbor, prompting many locals to nickname Puente de Amistad con Taiwan as Puente de la Apuñalada (Back stab Bridge).
Sensibly, Arias – who called the bridge the “Jewel of La Sabana” – didn’t sidestep the issue. “Countries have to grow and mature,” he said, explaining his perfectly intelligent and logical decision to switch sides. “And so, like a mother understands that her son can’t wear the same shoes that he was wearing 10 years ago, we should accept that there is clothing that we shouldn’t continue to wear. Sooner or later all countries have to wear long pants.”
Current Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla (an Arias protégé) seconded Arias and also trumpeted the benefits of the new relationship. “This impressive stadium in La Sabana stands... as recognition for former President Arias, and above all, as the reason to assume as a nation the responsibility to grow to the height of this modern coliseum.”
Then everyone settled back to watch a soccer game between the two nations that ended in a 2-2 draw. The fans apparently left the stadium and surrounding streets strewn with trash – some 50 tons of it, according to San José municipal officials. The fans were only partly to blame, however. Although I have a zero tolerance policy to littering, I’ll cut them some slack, as the architects and planners reportedly forgot to build in trash receptacles.
The list of major events will continue through April 10, when Colombian pop star Shakira will perform.
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Disclosure: I occasionally accept free or discounted travel when it coincides with my editorial goals. However, my opinion is never for sale. The opinions you see in Cuba & Costa Rica Journal are my unbiased reflection of the good, the bad, and the ugly.
Copyright © Christopher P. Baker