Sports Hub gets its biggest test

The much-maligned Singapore Sports Hub will get a shot at redemption when it tackles its biggest challenge yet at the June 5-16 SEA Games.

Up to a million spectators are expected at the 35ha site, which will become the centre of activity as the largest of the Games' three venue clusters.

The Kallang cluster, which includes new facilities like the 55,000-seater National Stadium, the OCBC Aquatic Centre as well as older ones like the Singapore Indoor Stadium and the Kallang Squash and Tennis Centre, will host 14 sports.

They include perennial SEA Games favourites like swimming and badminton as well as others like archery, softball and fencing.

The Marina Bay cluster will cater to sports like rowing, canoeing and traditional boat race while boxers and judokas will compete at the Singapore Expo cluster.

Intensive reparation work such as repainting is already ongoing at the Sports Hub to ensure that it is fit and ready to host the bulk of the region's athletes.

In all, $148.3 million, almost half of the $324.5 million budget, will go to meet competition costs that include logistics and venues.

Singapore SEA Games Organising Committee (Singsoc) executive committee chairman Lim Teck Yin is confident that Sports Hub Pte Ltd (SHPL), which manages and runs the facilities, will be able to address issues such as leaks in the National Stadium roof.

The stadium's field is also expected to be up to the mark come Games time.

After the opening of the hub, the pitch was lambasted heavily by top football teams, including the Brazil national side, for its patchy and sandy state.

He said: "We are confident that our partners at SHPL are fully committed to making sure that this venue will not just be ready - it'll be something people will be proud of."

Singsoc also has contingency plans, which include compressing the competition schedule or changing event dates, should there be a repeat of the severe haze situation from 2013, said Lim.

Grouping several sports together is part of Singsoc's strategy to attract spectators to watch sports that may not necessarily be their first choice.

Added Lim, also the chief executive of Sport Singapore: "This allows us to present a more attractive option for people taking their time out the whole weekend to watch more than just one sport."

The Kallang grounds will also feature a carnival, complete with bazaars, roving acts and sport try-outs.

It is part of Singsoc's efforts to woo members of the public with a wide range of activities beyond just watching sport.

For some athletes, competing in the main venue cluster means getting a rare chance to soak in the atmosphere of a multi-sport Games and cheer on fellow Team Singapore athletes.

Said netballer Micky Lin: "The netball team have few opportunities to participate in multi-sport Games. The last time we did so was at the Commonwealth Games in 2006.

"We would love to support our fellow Singapore athletes if schedule permits. It will be great fun."

Added water polo player Tan Su-Lynn: "There is definitely home-ground advantage that comes with the familiarity of the place, and knowing that our loved ones can be present to cheer us on."

This article was first published on Jan 29, 2015.
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