10 lessons to be learnt from the Big Bang tennis flop


Now that the recriminations have flown around after the “Kings of Tennis” debacle, it would be a pity if this episode is allowed to peter out without any real lessons being learned.

There are larger lessons here for the state when dealing with private companies coming up with all sorts of ideas and proposals:

1. Protect the public interest at all times, ahead of private interests.

2. Check out the track record of the companies concerned. Do they have a history of successful ventures? Are they in financial trouble? Check out the directors’ backgrounds.

3. Don’t get too “pally” and cosy with the business community. State government officials are there to uphold and defend the public interest. It’s fine to encourage economic activity, but when dealing with private companies, always do so at arm’s length.

4. Beware of things which appear to be free and cost nothing to the state. What do they expect in return – if not in cash, then in kind? Are they looking for relaxation of regulations, easier licences, cheap land, monopolistic advantage or a stepping stone to related ventures?

5. If they are introducing new technology, chemicals, etc, is the technology proven and safe? Remember the Precautionary Principle:

The precautionary principle is a moral and political principle which states that if an action or policy might cause severe or irreversible harm to the public or to the environment, in the absence of a scientific consensus that harm would not ensue, the burden of proof falls on those who would advocate taking the action.

The principle implies that there is a responsibility to intervene and protect the public from exposure to harm where scientific investigation discovers a plausible risk in the course of having screened for other suspected causes. The protections that mitigate suspected risks can be relaxed only if further scientific findings emerge that more robustly support an alternative explanation. In some legal systems, as the law of the European Union, the precautionary principle is also a general and compulsory principle of law.

In other words, the burden of proof lies with those introducing the technology to prove that it is safe – and NOT with the public to prove that it is harmful.

6.  What kind of social, economic and environmental impact will the project have? Does the company have a clean record in ensuring that there is no harmful impact? For example, what kind of impact will a hypermarket have on petty traders in the area? Is the project sustainable in the long run especially in terms of traffic, urban planning and the environment? Does this project benefit the majority of the population or just an elite group? What is the cost to the community?

7.  Study the financing scheme carefully.  Consider hidden costs to the public, the environment and the state. Have they secured financing? Often, that is a key test of the viability of a project as banks are unlikely to lend to dubious ventures. If no financing scheme is provided, this should immediately send a warning signal.

8. Be extremely careful about the state endorsing any private ventures. If the state endorses a private venture, wouldn’t that make it more difficult to penalise the firm or organisers for not having complied with this and that? Wouldn’t that leave the state exposed to claims of compensation from the public, if things go wrong?

9. Beware of giving out over-generous incentives and waivers of fees and charges. Why should some profit-motivated private firms be exempted from fees and deposits that should rightly go into state coffers? In the case of the “Kings of Tennis” event, the state should have at the very minimum collected a deposit or bank guarantee to ensure that the Esplanade is brought back to its original condition, not to mention rental for the use of the Esplanade.

10. Consider all options (to find out which is more cost-effective, sustainable and proven) and various vendors (for pricing, track record and reliablity) and consult the public (to gauge impact) and the experts (for technical input). Look at how other progressive cities create sustainable urban environments. Allow for meaningful public participation and discussions, not one-sided forums or top-down information dissemination. Better to be thorough in planning and groundwork and take your time than to rush into a venture and regret later when the hidden costs and problems start piling up.

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Lim Eng Guan, should be grateful that Penang people accepted him when he is a Malacca fellow. Make sure he doesn’t make stupid mistakes like Barisan fellas!


Jeez some of you commentors sound like old women. So quick to attck an honorable man such as our LGE. Meanwhile the BN rape of Malaysia goes on unabated. You really deserve a BN government.

Ong Eu Soon [expletive deleted] off to MCA you [expletive deleted].

Ong Eu Soon

Lim Guan Eng’s administration just love anything that is free. But the word “FREE” in modern day has a different meaning. Take for example, free trade zone, it meaning you will be confine to trade at certain zone, you can’t simply do your business any where. What Free Trade Agreement meaning? An agreement that lay out all the rules and constrains that you must complied before you can start trading. What is freedom of expression, the government will tell you, you can’t say or say that ‘cos it hurt, especially when you talk rubbish like RPK. So the state government… Read more »


This kind of mistakes will prevail over and over and simply because we are forgetful and not committed to learn from mistakes. We demand transparency and accountability when we are not in the show, we forget everything when we run the show. We are still dream walking and unless we hit the wall only then awakened. I think one fellow summarized well about the mentality of us. No matter how badly I did, as long as nobody found out then it is alright. We are afraid of being found guilty under the laws and imagine there is no heaven. These… Read more »


chong on November 14th, 2008 at 9.57am

hopefully they will learn the lesson.


They are in opposition camp for decades and always condemned BN for such wrongdoings. Now they are repeating same mistake which they wanted to correct in the past.

Failuire in any business is acceptable IF all proper procedures are observed, but we shall not allow “China man” management style in MPPP or state agencies.

Those executive abused their power must be accountable for the blunder. We shall not simply say lessson learned and case closed as BN government practised in the past.


Just to nitpick, that’s actually 11 items.

Oops, you are right! Now corrected. Anil

Dawind Said

Such a beautiful woman, Arianna Teoh. She symbolized the gorgeous potential of Malaysia’s multicultural mix. Just like the Malaysia that spawned her, she had everything going for her…

She grew up during Mahathir’s ‘Wawasan 2020’ years and bought into that whole ‘Malaysian Book of World Records’ bizniz. Another ‘Embarisan’ success story lah. When in Malaysia, do like the Malaysians do….

Moaz Yusuf Ahmad

I hope that the state government considers this in light of their recent plans to accept/entertain the idea of Aerobus/Aerorail in Penang. If the failure of the “King’s of Tennis” is any indication, there are serious problems with how the government is planning and implementing projects. Admittedly, they are a new government but if they do not learn from this mistake, things will only get worse. Imagine the Aerobus/Aerorail project turning into a similar failure because of poor oversight by the government and poor initial planning. The cities of Malaysia are littered with enough abandoned projects, thank you very much.… Read more »


This reminds me of the CYC thingy. Are we not learning from mistakes? Has the Penang state government been transparent and protective of the people’s interest in this case? Was any state funds involved? I hope everything has been done above board.

This whole episode should be dissected and a proper explanation given. This should serve as a useful lesson for future undertaking. Having the field ripped up and then finding out they have not paid the necessary up front money to have the event go ahead simply cannot be tolerated.

Over to you, LGE !


Beautiful face free promotions For Penang Island so MPPP waives PR government willing to tag along Free publicity returns aplenty Now the laughing stock People pointing figures CAT credo what gone wrong? Allowing it to go on Without deposit and guarantee On a heritage site Esplanade cannons can’t fire It has no cannon so it stays quiet So quiet until the tennis bang It falls on a whimper Hardly raise a sweat Simple basic rules In business one forgets Promises isn’t on paper Now who will task to bear? LGE has to explain Learn lessons well I say CAT must… Read more »


hopefully they will learn the lesson.

Jennifer Vincent-Siew

What a time it is in our country…and the plot thickens…..
The authorities never learn do they?????


2. Check out the track record of the companies concerned. Do they have a history of successful ventures? Are they in financial trouble? Check out the director’s backgrounds.


Arianna Teoh did organize David Copperfield magic show which was also cancelled at last minute.


Qouted: http://thestar.com.my/news/story.asp?file=/2008/11/13/nation/2531102&sec=nation “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… Read more »


It was reported that no a single contract signed and no deposit paid between organizer and MPPP.

DAP state tourism executive pressurized MPPP to let this event go ahead without proper paperworks.

Low, Penang Padang is not your father’s property and you have no authourity to waive proper procedure in rental of public assets.

Lim Guan Eng, this is your so-called DAP accountability a.k.a BN cronyism.


More shocking news is no deposit was taken from organizer by the City Hall. If the company decides to declare bankrupt, who is going to bear for Padang grass field repair cost?

There is a vast vacant land in Panatai Jerjak which was plannied for mini Putrajaja. Why the temporary court cannot be erected over there instead in George Town Padang, a world heritage enclave.

Can anyone enlighten me what kind of transparency and accountability adopted by Pakatan Rakyat government in Penang?

Lim Guan Eng, please do not blame previous state government again for this blunder.


it takes time…its alrite they are still learning…we learn frm mistakes…thats wat makes us better….at least these guys are damn sincere in their jobs…


… I would like to add, if the above seems a little difficult, just publicise the project and get feedback from the people. Consultation (of the free kind) can do wonders for our understanding of an issue, and the proper evaluation of a programme.

Keeping the people informed is the hallmark of a resposible government.


Ooo!!! Ini Arianna Teoh we are talking about. How not to give face? How can we deny her her space to build temp tennis court?

Seriously, I cannot image me, myself and I getting Penang state govt to allow me to build temp tennis court. It shows that celebrity really get special favours.

Adam & The Ants