The Asia Masters Athletics Championships will head for the heartlands come May.
The biennial competition will be hosted in Singapore for the first time in 24 years and, yesterday, Singapore Athletics (SA) president Tang Weng Fei confirmed it will be held at the Bishan Stadium.
"Bishan Stadium is the best alternative," said the oil trader, on the sidelines of the association's signing ceremony of a $280,000, one-year deal with local traditional Chinese medicine company Kin Teck Tong.
"We have to be careful because there will be a lot of senior athletes, and safety is the biggest priority.
"I have to admit it's still quite disappointing, though, because we've planned the Masters always with the vision it would be held at the National Stadium.
"It's a pity we're not holding it in a world-class facility like the Sports Hub, because I've seen how big an effect the Masters can have on a host country, like in Taipei (in 2012) and in Kitakami (Japan, last year)."
It is understood the Choa Chu Kang Stadium was also considered as an alternative venue, before Bishan was picked.
Reports early this month revealed a snag in negotiations with the Singapore Sports Hub over rental costs for the use of the National Stadium for the May 4-8 championships, with the touted figure of $600,000 being double of the meet's event budget.
In contrast, rental costs for hosting the meet at Bishan Stadium over six days will not exceed $18,000.
Despite deciding on the venue, the SA will still have some explaining to do.
"Now we have to do damage control," said Tang.
"On Jan 30, (SA vice-president, competitions) Loh Chan Pew will have to explain the change to the Asia Masters Athletics Association council in a meeting in Bangkok.
"They already sent us an e-mail saying they've heard about problems, and they're disappointed."
Held once every two years, the Asia Masters Championships will host about 2,500 athletes aged 35 years and above, from 26 countries.
This is the fourth time that Singapore will be hosting the event, having previously done so in 1981, 1985 and 1992.
Yesterday, SA and Kin Teck Tong officially put pen to paper on their partnership, at the medical practitioners' newly opened medical centre at the Kallang Wave Mall.
National athletes Veronica Shanti Pereira, Dipna Lim-Prasad and Soh Rui Yong were given a tour of the facilities, which include acupuncture and cupping treatment rooms, a herbal fumigation bed and lumbar traction device.
As part of the deal, Kin Teck Tong's team of qualified in-house physicians and trained therapists will be accessible to both elite national athletes as well as participants at SA events.
This article was first published on December 29, 2015.
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