SEA Games: Despite success, Singapore Asian Games unlikely

SEA Games: Despite success, Singapore Asian Games unlikely
Singapore netball players celebrate at full time after beating Malaysia 46-43 in the 28th SEA Games Netball Finals on Sunday, 7 June 2015 at the OCBC Arena.
PHOTO: ST

SINGAPORE - A Singapore bid to host the Asian Games appeared unlikely on Tuesday despite its successful Southeast Asian (SEA) Games held in state-of-the-art facilities this month.

Senior sports officials gave a thumbs-down to an Asiad in Singapore, signalling that hosting Asia's version of the Olympics was not in the city-state's sights.

While Singapore could celebrate amassing a national record of 84 gold medals at the SEA Games, similar success would be unlikely at the bigger, pan-Asian version.

And the costs of organising an Asian Games are prohibitive, as seen last year when Hanoi pulled out of hosting the 2018 edition.

"I do not see us spending a lot of money just to hold the Asian Games," Team Singapore chef de mission Tan Eng Liang told reporters on the SEA Games' final day.

"Personally I do not see how Asian Games will contribute very significantly despite the amount of cost and the organisation that are needed," he added.

"So personally I do not see the need of the Asian Games."

Singapore already has much of the infrastructure for major sports events after the completion of its billion-US-dollar Sports Hub last year.

The riverside complex not far from the city centre includes the 55,000-seat, domed, air-cooled National Stadium, a swimming and diving venue and a number of competition-ready gym halls and arenas.

But Bob Gambardella, head of the Singapore Sports Institute, said Singapore's strategy was to host single, high-level events rather than multi-sport showpieces.

"I think what we're looking at (is) single major international events like the WTA (Finals) and ways in which we can leverage off that kind of a tournament over the next four years to catalyse the sport in the country," he said.

"So we see those kind of events coming fast and they will help us build out that sport ecosystem itself," Gambardella added.

After establishing a popular Formula One night race, Singapore also now hosts the annual WTA Finals featuring the top eight women's players.

Gambardella said representatives from swimming body FINA had also visited to discuss holding the world junior championships in Singapore.

Singapore officials were delighted with their medals haul, led by star swimmer Joseph Schooling's nine golds, at a Games where the line-up of sports is unashamedly tailored by the hosts.

"If you're going to spend 300-odd million dollars you want to end up at the end of the day doing pretty well," said Singapore National Olympic Committee (NOC) secretary-general Chris Chan.

"Otherwise how do you justify spending? You're not organising the Games to make the other NOCs happy."

And they promised they wouldn't follow Myanmar, who won 86 gold medals when they hosted the last SEA Games in 2013, but slumped to just 12 in Singapore.

"I guarantee we won't do a Myanmar," said Tan, looking ahead to the next edition in Malaysia in 2017.

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