The athletics programme is always the highlight of a major multi-sports event, and this year's South-east Asia (SEA) Games, which Singapore will host in June, is no different.
Maybe there is even more excitement for this year's event because of the new National Stadium.
While the track event will be held at the 55,000-capacity stadium, the SEA Games organising committee has still to decide if the field events will also be held there, or at the adjacent practice track, due to the possible sensitive nature of the new turf at the stadium. Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, SHPL chief executive officer Philippe Delavaud said there will be exciting times for sprint events because of the "fast track".
The track has already been approved by IAAF and will be ready in time for the June 5 to 16 Games.
"The track is a Mondo Olympic-grade track and it is a fast running track," said the Frenchman.
"(The surface) is a little bit hard from a layman's standpoint. It's more for 100m and 200m sprints, not for daily use or people like me, for example.
"We tested it a few months ago, and we have a new period for full testing and configuration at the end of March, to fine-tune some of the last details... so that it can be ready in time for the SEA Games."
Currently covered, the track requires three to four days - of moving tiers and fine tuning - to be ready.
But that will not be an issue because by March, the 55,000-seater stadium, the centrepiece of the $1.33 billion Hub, will be transformed into athletics mode.
Said Delavaud: "Moving the tiers, working day and night, takes 48 hours.
"Around that, you need one day of preparations before and one day of fine-tuning after, so it's roughly three or four days. But, the track will be there from March."
Singapore athletes, along with some foreign stars, will test it out at the Singapore Track and Field Open on March 28 and 29. Singapore Athletics Association (SAA) president Tang Weng Fei said they gave feedback after last year's trial run, which took place just before the Asian Games in Incheon in August.
Said Tang: "There were a few issues at the time, which we informed the Sports Hub.
"For example, some of the hurdle legs weren't capped, and a portion of the track was slightly scratched because of the planks which were in place to accommodate the spectator stands.
"Nothing major, but the wind (speed) was also an interesting issue. The stadium is designed in a way that wind blows in from just one side. We need to have it rotated within the venue, 360 degrees."
According to Tang, several athletes were happy with the faster track and requested for more opportunities to run at the venue.
The SAA duly brought forward the annual Open - usually held in August - to ensure local athletes spend time on the new race track.
"The Singapore Open will be a dry run for the SEA Games," said Tang.
"Our athletes will practise at the stadium three weeks before the Singapore Open and two weeks after, as well."
This article was first published on Jan 14, 2015.
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