SEA games: Sports Hub's time to shine

SEA games: Sports Hub's time to shine

A couple of weeks before the competition kicked off workers dotted the dome of the National Stadium every day, plugging away, sealing and checking the roof, leaving nothing to chance.

With the 28th South-east Asia (SEA) Games in mind, grass areas around the Sports Hub were manicured, walkways worked on, fresh paint applied for a shine, while signs, posters and banners have been mounted.

Over the last few days there have been screams, claps and whistles heard out of various precincts of the Singapore Sports Hub, tears have flowed and heckles have been raised.

Table tennis has come to life at the Indoor Stadium, water women made a splash at the OCBC Aquatic Centre as synchronised swimmers, and the country's No. 1 female sport, netball, has rocked the OCBC Arena.

Oon Jin Teik would have been making the rounds all the time.

He will be busy tonight, entertaining guests while I'm sure privately hoping the opening ceremony at the National Stadium just stays spectacular.

He's a swimming Olympian, schooled in both the private and public sector and is now chief operating officer of the Sports Hub.

He believes the Sports Hub project can be copied by countries who aspire to host major Games.

I spoke to Oon recently about the Sports Hub's central role at a SEA Games that is returning to Singapore after 22 years, and he said: "When this project was conceptualised, the mission statement, the vision statement was very, very clear, this is a stage for sports, entertainment and lifestyle for all Singaporeans on an integrated basis.

"The target audience and the purpose was made very clear. It was built to cater to all Singaporeans in sports, entertainment, lifestyle, all the time.

"It was never built for the SEA Games, or built for the Olympic Games.

"Never.

"The Sports Hub is a receptacle to house all these plans."

When Singapore hosted the SEA Games in 1993, the magnificent old National Stadium was the centrepiece of it all.

This time, a 35-hectare facility will be at the heart of it all, with the new National Stadium as the centrepiece.

Oon, a breaststroke specialist and a SEA Games gold medallist, was part of the Singapore relay quartet led by Ang Peng Siong at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles.

He knows the kind of excitement the athletes will be feeling now.

The foreign contingent will expect to be wowed by the Sports Hub, they would also have heard about the poor state of the initial pitch at the National Stadium and the leaky domed roof after it all made international headlines over the course of the last 12 months.

Oon, 52, is confident the team at the Sports Hub have fixed the problems, especially with the lay and play solution for the stadium pitch.

"I'm confident... because we have worked hard to address every big and small issue. I don't think I've seen the team so committed and literally working round the clock and everybody knows this is a mission where we want to do the best in Singapore," he insisted.

"Including our foreign talent, they know. They're actually very proud to be part of this.

"The issues are all discussed and the solutions are the most logical

"The lay and play pitch is by an Australian company which has done it many times.

"The company brought the whole team over from Australia.

"The timing is planned by minutes for lay and play, from the moment the opening ceremony finishes.

"Transport, trucks all by minutes. When they arrive, which direction, where do they park, and so on. And we have to deal with multi-stakeholders, one is tearing down the exit while one is coming in to remove, one is coming in to install one is coming in to clean.

"And there's nothing left to chance."

By the end, the Sports Hub would have hosted 10 events at this SEA Games, including the big ones - swimming at the OCBC Aquatic Centre, track and field and the football semi-finals and final at the grand National Stadium

"Venue stays as it is. We take out all the props, two weeks later we host another event. July 2nd WWE, July 5th is a big multi-religious event at the stadium, July 3, 4 5, water festival. We are back in action again after two weeks of closing.

"I don't think I've seen any other big venues in the world two weeks later host events after major Games.

"I stand corrected, but I'm pretty sure of myself."

The 2015 SEA Games officially opens today, with the closing ceremony on June 16.

Singapore's athletes have already won 7 gold medals.

The New Paper has predicted a haul of 75 golds for the hosts at these Games, some believe it is possible, many others say it is a bridge too far.

Oon is also the secretary general of the Singapore Swimming Association and great things are expected of his swimmers.

The duel between star Joseph Schooling and up-and-coming rival Quah Zheng Wen is potential box office next week, but he does not want to be drawn into picking sides.

"The best will win. Not the better, the best will win.

"They are both showing the kind of signs where winning is not about your traditional requirement like height, bigger size.

"They show signs that they have what it takes.

"It's going to be exciting."

In this corner of the world, the Sports Hub may be about to show the way.


This article was first published on June 05, 2015.
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