Legacy is one of the first words mentioned when any new major sporting facility is built. Elisha Chauhan finds out what Sport Singapore’s plans are to ensure the Sports Hub will have a lasting positive effect for the city-state and its people.
Launched in July 2011, Vision 2030 is a joint project led by Sport Singapore, the new name for the Singapore Sports Council, and the state’s ministry of culture, community and youth.
It was a result of a public study undertaken in early 2011 that questioned how Singapore’s businesses, communities and individuals could use sport as a strategy to help all residents live better.
“Vision 2030 is about nation-building,” Singaporean IOC (International Olympic Committee) member Ng Ser Miang told SportBusiness International. “We are looking at the value of sports and how it helps civilians.”
“In the future, we envisage that as much as, if not more, of the resident population will be non-Singaporeans. We asked ourselves how sport can play a role in the education and development of our youth, as well as creating active ageing and social networks in the community,” adds Sport Singapore chief executive Lim Teck Yin.
“We also want sport to be a national language, with no boundaries and a sense of inclusion for all the different and new demographics.”
Home to 11 Singaporean sports associations, the Singapore Sports Hub epitomises Vision 2030. The flagship venue is first and foremost used as a training facility for athletes, and therefore an icon for the nation’s elite sporting performance. With its community sports, entertainment and retail facilities, the Hub is one of only a few international venues around the world that can be used equally by both professionals and amateurs.
“What we hope to see is a 24/7 mix of activity at the Hub,” says Lim. “The venue is hoping to easily get one million visitors per month. Our rates for using the facilities are really low, and people will also be attracted to the basketball, volleyball and other public courts that are free to use.”
Beyond Singapore, the Hub also plays an integral role in promoting Asia – a continent nearly every major international sports event is looking to as a potential growth market – as a sports event destination.
“I believe that this will also be a hub for Asia,” Ng says. “There are a lot of international sport competitions and conferences that will be hosted at the Hub, so I believe that it will strengthen not only the position of Singapore, but the whole of Asia too.”
Singapore has bullish legacy objectives, but when the year 2030 arrives and the vision has materialised, will it be in a position to host an event as significant as the Olympics? Not quite, according to former IOC vice-president and presidential candidate Ng.
“Singapore will not be bidding for the Olympics in the foreseeable future, but obviously if the rules for hosting the Games change to being able to have multi-city hosting, then that could open up an opportunity,” he says.
“We are taking one step at a time and, until the interest is there to co-host an Olympics, I don’t think there will be any more major sport infrastructure development. The Sports Hub is sufficient for us for years to come.”
“I think it is important for each of our public agencies – such as the Singapore Tourism Board – to quantify and articulate the return on every event we want to host. That’s the key for knowing where to invest,” adds Lim.
“There’s so many events that we could talk about hosting, but if we are not going to get the return and impact, or we don’t know how we are going to leverage the event, then we are not going to spend money on it. Our ultimate goal is for the Sports Hub to be used to its full capacity on a regular basis, and it doesn’t take a world-class event [like the Olympics] to do that.”
Nevertheless, the Sports Hub will strengthen Singapore’s Olympic ambitions, as its facilities use as training venues will play a central role in improving Team Singapore’s success at the Games.
“The government has been investing a lot more resources in sports excellence, as well as with the work of national sports federations, so Singapore is providing athletes a lot of opportunities to develop performance in national, regional and international sports events,” says Ng.
“We can see that standards are increasing very well, particularly with the development of sailing where we have won the Optimist World Championship three times in a row now. We have seen many gold medals in new sports, which are a good indication of the success of our sport support programmes.”
The Sports Hub demonstrates to any nation looking to maximise the benefits of a large physical sporting structure that it has to be part of a wider government initiative. If not, the legacy left behind will only be one of white elephants and national debt.
“The legacy that we want to leave is one of sport being essential to the way we live, and that it has a value way beyond simply playing sports. When we gave Vision 2030 the tag line ‘Live better through sport’, I was often asked what it meant,” says Lim.
“Well, it means different things to different people – for parents it is about how you connect with your children, and for a young adult it is much more than just a way to de-stress, it’s about transferring your developing skills in sport to the workplace.
“I was a national athlete, and when I look at the time I was competing compared to today, I know that the imagination and aspirations of Team Singapore has grown. The idea that Singaporeans are able to win gold medals is already in their psyche. I think the Sports Hub and Vision 2030 will only spur that on.”
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Singapore Sports Hub: Star Attraction
Who will be using the Sports Hub and what type of major events will be held there? Elisha Chauhan spoke to the venue’s operators to find out.