SEA Games: A mission to woo Singaporeans

Athletes, volunteers and members of the public passing the largest-ever Team Singapore flag down Orchard Road to mark the 90-day countdown to the 28th South-east Asia (SEA) Games to be held from 5 to 16 June 2015 in Singapore. Transforming Orchard Road into a sea of red, an estimated 40,000 turned up to support Team Singapore for the countdown event and activities on Orchard Road’s Pedestrian Night.

As chairman of the organising committee (Singsoc) of the 28th South-east Asia (SEA) Games, Sport Singapore's chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin has even more on his mind these days.

The team have been working tirelessly to ensure a hit unfolds across the country from June 5 to 16.

For the 2015 SEA Games to be a success here, the biggest challenge is to attract Singaporeans to the 30 venues that will host the 36 events.

When asked about the organisers' strategy to capture the imagination of the public, the former national water polo player broke the Singapore spectator down into three categories.

"You have segments who are keen and who have gone out there, found out about the schedules, and bought their tickets," Lim told The New Paper, in an interview last week.

"Then you have fans who are keen but, like it was during the Youth Olympic Games, will 'see how first', before buying.

"For these people, we remind them that events are selling out fast, don't wait too long.

"The third category (is) those who say they are not really into sports - so why bother?


"For them, we say, let us give you a reason - be part of the festival. That's why we went with the notion of creating carnivals at various venues.

"You may not be a big dragon-boat racing fan but head down to Marina Bay, where DBS is putting on a carnival for SG50.

"Come to the Sports Hub, to the National Stadium which is free, have a look and soak in the atmosphere.

"Hopefully, you will decide that you are indeed interested."

Signs have been encouraging.

Tickets for swimming, gymnastics, badminton, diving and water polo are in high demand, while cuesports, equestrian and fencing have already sold 70 per cent of tickets.

The opening ceremony at the National Stadium on June 5 is a sellout and 75 per cent of tickets for the closing ceremony on June 16 have already been snapped up.

The $1.33-billion Sports Hub will host the biggest number of sports, with 10 (aquatics, track and field, badminton, basketball, billiards and snooker, fencing, football, netball, table tennis and volleyball) held at the 35-hectare venue in Kallang.

The other 26 sports will be held at 18 other venues across the island, including the Singapore Expo, Choa Chu Kang Stadium and Marina Bay.

Lim applauds the move by the men's water polo team to hold a special event to collect the 25 gold medals won since the 1965 Games and present it to this year's team, if, as is widely expected, they win again.

"The parents of swimmers are also rallying to attend the meets and cheer on the athletes... Our job is to facilitate and encourage these groups of people," he said. Lim was heartened by the turnout at last week's South-east Asia Basketball Association (Seaba) Championship held at the OCBC Arena, which drew near-capacity crowds of 1,700 on matchdays.

Singapore finished third in the six-team tournament, behind champions the Philippines and Malaysia.

"We need to give people something to cheer, and that comes back to our athletes," Lim said.

"But it can't be that fans cheer for only the teams that perform well; cheer also for the underdogs because that's the part fans can play.

"Don't come to the Games as a customer, but as one Team Singapore. That's the rallying call."

Lim highlighted that the biggest challenge was getting spectators down on the weekdays, during the heats and preliminary rounds of most sports.

"For the smaller venues, we have less of an issue because the seating capacity is not large. Volleyball, for example, does not exceed 1,000 seats because we have to channel those seats for basketball and netball, where we know we will get a crowd," he explained.

"As for the bigger venues, there is concern over badminton and table tennis at the Indoor Stadium.

"Not so much that people won't enjoy the sports, but of being able to create enough of an atmosphere.

"The players, the (TV) broadcast, and the fans who show up need the atmosphere. So we need to work towards creating that, and the big venues are the ones which are going to pose the biggest challenge."

It can't be that fans cheer for only the teams that perform well; cheer also for the underdogs because that's the part fans can play. Don't come to the Games as a customer, but as one Team Singapore. That's the rallying call. - Sport Singapore's chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin

This article was first published on May 6, 2015.
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