Can the Sports Hub bring in the crowds?

Can the Sports Hub bring in the crowds?

When it opens next April, the $1.33 billion Singapore Sports Hub will be one of Asia's most modern sporting venues. A calendar of world-class sports and concert events will create buzz. But to avoid the fate of other sports stadiums that end up being white elephants, the Hub must go beyond sports events to draw the crowds.

SINGAPORE - Its iconic dome-shaped roof is unmistakable, even though it is still 10 months away from completion.

When the Singapore Sports Hub is finally open to the public next April, there is little doubt that the $1.33 billion project will alter Singapore's landscape, in more ways than one.

Physically, it will house a National Stadium boasting the world's biggest free-spanning dome, at 310m wide. The dome will be one of the first things tourists spot from atop the Marina Bay Sands SkyPark and one of the lasting impressions sports fans visiting the Hub will leave with.

Symbolically, the Hub will mark Singapore's arrival as a key player in the sports business industry in the region. It will be a departure from ideologies of the past, when sports was a means to foster a fit and healthy populace.

When the Government invested $50 million in the original National Stadium in 1973, sports excellence and the pursuit of medals were discouraged.

More than four decades on, as Singapore prepares to host the 2015 SEA Games in a brand new stadium, Team Singapore - backed by a new $40 million elite athlete funding programme - will be expected to net a record haul of medals at the biennial regional games.

But one memorable event and a shift in philosophy are not enough to ensure that the Hub does not become a white elephant, as is the concern with such mega structures.

Beijing's magnificent Bird's Nest Stadium opened to much fanfare at the 2008 Olympics. Observers hailed its iconic structure, and athletes the inspiring atmosphere it creates.

These days, the rare sports event finds itself sharing the calendar with winter wonderland shows, in a venue where the camera clicks of tourists are heard more often than the cheers of fans.

Can the Sports Hub succeed where the Bird's Nest Stadium and others failed?

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