Portugal pulls out of Mpumalanga’s state-of-the-art training academy plan

The construction of a R2 billion high-altitude training academy in Mpumalanga is in doubt after Portugal suspended its commitment to fund the project because of its economic problems.

Mpumalanga wants to build the state-of-the-art academy in Belfast to attract athletes from all over the world to train in the facility, which would ensure they achieved high fitness levels because of the area’s altitude.

Belfast is 1 850 metres above sea level. The academy will cater for all sporting codes.

Premier David Mabuza said the province would, in the meantime, be looking for investors to continue with the project. He was answering questions in the legislature from Democratic Alliance leader Anthony Benadie.

“Portugal has suspended the MOU (memorandum of understanding) due to the economic crisis in the eurozone. They decided to pull out to concentrate on their domestic challenges,” Mabuza said.

The Mpumalanga government has, to date, spent R50 million on the first phase of the project, which includes the designs, project management, environmental impact assessment studies, topographical surveys, town planning and landscaping.

Included in the expenditure is 110 hectares of land worth R5 million.

Mabuza said that if everything went according to plan, construction of the training facilities and accommodation could start next month.

“We’re looking for investors because this is a huge amount of money for government to spend alone. After Portugal’s withdrawal, government decided to continue, however, at a small scale,” he said.

The second phase of the project will include the construction of a boarding school, restaurant and stadiums.

Meanwhile, indications are that if the project succeeds, the economy of the impoverished town, which is known for trout fishing, will boom, particularly in the accommodation sector.

Estate agents say interest in undeveloped stands had picked up over the past year following the announcement of the academy.

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