Singapore will spend $324.5 million to host the SEA Games in June, but expects this investment to reap long-term benefits by ingraining sport into the country's social fabric.
It is this building of a sporting culture, more than gold medals or economic spin-offs, that the Singapore SEA Games Organising Committee (Singsoc) hopes will be the legacy of the June 5-16 multi-sport meet.
Besides keeping events affordable - entry to half of them will be free - Singsoc will also launch a series of community engagement activities in the coming months. These will include a mass rally on March 7 in Orchard Road and a 50-day countdown.
But it is looking past the 12- day Games - which will involve more than 7,000 athletes and officials in 36 sports - for a wider and deeper impact.
Hosting the SEA Games was a key platform for Vision 2030, the Government's push to make sport a way of life in Singapore, Singsoc executive committee chairman Lim Teck Yin said at a media briefing yesterday.
"One legacy of the Games is that all the people involved will continue to be involved (in sport) and continue to drive the message that we can live better through it," added Mr Lim who, as a boy, accompanied his father around Singapore at the 1973 South-east Asian Peninsular Games and fell in love with sport.
The Games will come on the back of the Government's initiatives to promote a sporting lifestyle. Last March, it pledged $1.5 billion as part of its Sports Facilities Master Plan to strengthen the sporting landscape, which aims to provide Singaporeans with a venue to play and exercise at within 10 minutes of their home by 2030.
Nominated MP Benedict Tan, who is president of the Singapore Sailing Federation and recently spoke passionately in Parliament about the worrying state of the country's sports culture, was optimistic about Singsoc's intentions.
He said: "We want to move away from the old model where elite athletes take part and everyone else watches... Winning a medal is only a part of it. The bigger part can be resilience and national pride.
"How do you translate that medal into national pride? That is where you have to get Singaporeans from all walks of life involved, even the non-active people."
While some will baulk at the Games' allocated budget - it cost $10 million to run the 1993 edition - Mr Lim, who is also chief executive of Sport Singapore, said this was the minimum amount needed in today's context, and that Singsoc would not overspend.
After all, the scale of this 28th SEA Games will surpass that of previous editions hosted here in 1973, 1983 and 1993, as well as the inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in 2010. The YOG cost $387 million then and involved around 5,000 athletes and officials across 26 sports.
Recent major regional sporting events also did not come cheap. The 2014 Asian Games in Incheon were reported to have cost South Korea around US$2 billion (S$2.68 billion), while the 2013 SEA Games in Myanmar were pegged at around US$400 million.
Of the estimated $324.5 million, $148.3 million will be spent on competition costs that include logistics, broadcast and technology. Security, administration, legal and insurance costs and others are next highest at $52.7 million, while the opening and closing ceremonies will cost $33.6 million in total.
Local firms will stand to benefit too - around 90 per cent of the spending has been awarded in tenders to local companies. Singsoc has also collected over $60 million in sponsorship, surpassing its original target of $50 million.
Support from corporate Singapore notwithstanding, Mr Lim is confident that with Singsoc intensifying its outreach programmes, the public will stand behind Team Singapore's athletes.
When asked how the Games will be defined as a success, he said: "That Singaporeans feel proud and come out to own the Games... From an organisational point, we will pride ourselves on our efficiency, effectiveness and, of course, staying within budget."
Additional reporting by May Chen
Free entry to half the sports, other tickets from $5
Free entry will be offered to half of the 36 sports at June's SEA Games to ensure the event is accessible to the public.
Ticketed events will also remain affordable, said the Singapore SEA Games Organising Committee (Singsoc), with prices starting from $5.
Popular sports like football, aquatics and table tennis will cost $20 - before half-price concessions - but Singsoc executive committee chairman Lim Teck Yin is confident that packed stadiums will greet the country's athletes.
"This is a not-for-profit event," he said.
"In Singapore, excitement about anything is infectious and Singaporeans catch on when others are excited."
To encourage strong local support and cater to work schedules during the 12-day Games, Singsoc has tried to arrange for Team Singapore athletes to play on weekday evenings and late afternoons on weekends.
Besides the Republic's top stars like Asian Games gold medallist Joseph Schooling (swimming), the likes of Thailand's 2013 badminton world champion Ratchanok Intanon and Malaysia's first diving Olympic medallist Pandelela Rinong will also be on show.
Priority sales began yesterday, with public sales starting next Wednesday. A total of 790,000 tickets will be made available.
An unofficial website was selling Games tickets, Singsoc warned last night. It added that APACTix is the sole distributor of Games tickets and those purchased through other channels will not be valid for entry to Games venues.
Communications manager Elizabeth Teo, 28, bought tickets to tennis and volleyball at the 2010 Youth Olympics and is thrilled that she will be able to catch these events at the Sports Hub. She said: "It is helpful that the sports I am interested in will be close together."
The Under-23 football competition will be the first to start, kicking off on May 29.
Mr Murali Nair, 45, who runs a construction firm, said: "It is the school holidays, so I will take my kids to cheer our players on."
Event prices and how to get tickets
Free: Athletics, archery, softball, tennis, squash, rowing, canoeing/kayaking, sailing, traditional boat race, water skiing, cycling, golf, triathlon, bowling, shooting, petanque, hockey and floorball.
$5: Boxing, judo, pencak silat, sepak takraw, taekwondo and wushu.
$10: Basketball, billiards and snooker, fencing, netball, rugby sevens and volleyball.
$20: Aquatics, badminton, equestrian, football, gymnastics and table tennis.
Priority tickets are available at www.seagames2015.com, and public sales begin on Feb 4.
This article was first published on January 29, 2015.
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