SINGAPORE - Fans aiming to watch one of Singapore's sprinters pull off a shock over Thai speed demon Jirapong Meenapra in the blue- riband men's 100m at the 2015 South-east Asia (SEA) Games here in June will not have to pay for a ticket.
The Singapore SEA Games Organising Committee (Singsoc) yesterday announced that track and field events - almost all of which will be held at the 55,000-capacity National Stadium - will be one of the 18 sports that won't be ticketed.
Singapore will host the biennial Games from June 5 to 16 - the first time since 1993. Track and field will be on stage from June 6 to 11.
It is almost always the biggest event of a multi-sport Games, with organisers usually cashing in due to the high demand for tickets but, just like all three Games held here previously, this year's event will be free.
"We are doing this to enable everyone to have a Games experience," said Singsoc chairman Lim Teck Yin yesterday.
"If you own a company and you want to bring all your staff down to Kallang for an experience of the Games, but you can't get tickets for everybody to swimming, table tennis or badminton, you can at least come into the National Stadium.
"If you're a schoolteacher bringing children for a learning journey, if you're an extended family that wants to have a day out at the Games, the National Stadium will be opened to you to enjoy the overall atmosphere of the Games and to experience track and field.
"We want to see a rejuvenation of our track and field scene, and SEA Games athletics will be a great opportunity for us to do so."
Former national 100m record holder C Kunalan is certain the move will give Singapore's track and field athletes an added boost.
The 72-year-old won 15 SEA Games medals, one of those was on home soil in 1973 when he was part of the 4x400m relay team that won silver.
When the Games was in Singapore again, in 1993, he was the national sprints coach.
"I remember, in 1993, the grandstand at the old Kallang Stadium was packed for the 100m final," said Kunalan, who is the Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) vice-president for training and selection.
"In fact, I went up to the stands to watch the race with the spectators and you could really feel the electrifying atmosphere.
"It was the same in 1973 when I ran the relay event. That kind of home support really gives athletes a boost."
Delighted with the move, SAA president Tang Weng Fei is looking at how they can capitalise and attract more eyeballs to the sport.
"We have to get people to come and the free attendance is helpful. There is already strong interest in road running, for example, and hopefully the SEA Games can also get more interested in other events," he said.
"In fact... we had lunch with people from the Sports Hub and we talked about things we could do to allow the public to get to know track and field events better, and develop an appreciation for them.
"Everybody knows about the 100m sprint... But the more technical events, not many people know what a good javelin throw is, what would get a relay team disqualified.
"I was in Myanmar before the last SEA Games (in December 2013) and I saw something similar on local television telling people about the pole vault event. I don't see why we cannot do something similar."
To guard against any damage to the new pitch, Lim revealed yesterday that the hammer event will be held at the Kallang Practice Track, which is a short walk from the National Stadium.
Singsoc continues to talk to the SAA and the Sports Hub about holding the discus, shot put and javelin events at the National Stadium.
SAA general manager Yazeen Buhari said the association supported the move.
Said Yazeen: "We have heard feedback from our athletes and we acknowledge that our local throwers are really looking forward to competing in the new stadium. We are working with the Sports Hub and looking at solutions.
"At the moment, it is still 50-50 because there are considerations that have to be made, but things are going positively."
This article was first published on January 29, 2015.
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