A challenge to host C'wealth, Asian Games

Minister Lawrence Wong (left), with Sport Singapore chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin, says it is not a simple matter of hosting a major event just because Singapore has the facilities. Other factors to consider include whether there are pay-offs
Minister Lawrence Wong (left), with Sport Singapore chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin, says it is not a simple matter of hosting a major event just because Singapore has the facilities. Other factors to consider include whether there are pay-offs in getting people to bond more and pursue sports.PHOTO: LIANHE ZAOBAO

Mr Wong cites constraints but S'pore can aim for major single-sport events

SINGAPORE will not have to wait another 22 years to see the next SEA Games held here, but any multi-sport event on a bigger scale will remain unlikely in the near future.

The Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, for one thing, are events which are not realistic for the Republic to stage due to their scale, said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong.

"(There will be) other major events that we can host," he said at a post-SEA Games wrap-up at Swissotel the Stamford yesterday. "But let's also be realistic about what can be done in Singapore."

  • Games watch

  • 500,000
    spectators caught the action at 31 venues

    850,000
    attended the Games carnival

    44 million
    watched on YouTube

Republic's space and infrastructural constraints greatly limit any chance of going bigger.

About 7,000 athletes and officials across 36 sports were part of the SEA Games, which concluded this week. A total of 402 events were contested over 18 days of competition.

The 2014 Asiad, in comparison, involved about 13,000 participants, even though a similar number of events were contested (439 events across 36 sports).

A total of 45 countries took part - more than four times the participating Asean nations and Timor Leste.

While only 18 sports were contested at last year's Commonwealth Games, the event saw 71 nations and territories sending about 8,000 athletes and officials.

A lack of a cycling velodrome and mid-sized football stadiums capable of holding 10,000 to 20,000 spectators also hampers the organisation of those major Games.

"To even do the SEA Games in our current context, with just one stadium, turn (it) around to do multiple events is already very complex," said Mr Wong, who was also chairman of the Singapore South-east Asian Games organising committee's (Singsoc) steering committee.

He added: "I'm not ruling it out in the future. But if we look at where we are today, with the present infrastructure, to do the Commonwealth Games or Asian Games would be very hard."

Instead, he said, the focus will be kept on bringing in single-sport events which Singapore has been doing for some time.

For instance, the Republic hosted the Netball World Championship in 2011 and the Asian Championship last year. Swimming's Fina World Junior Championships will also be held here in August.

It is not simply about going bigger, said Mr Wong, as there are several other factors to consider when contemplating hosting events.

"We'll have to study and look at what's doable, and why we want to do it - not just because we have facilities, but how does it help us strengthen our sporting culture, and inspire people to take up sports," he said.

While Team Singapore's haul of 84 golds, 73 silvers and 102 bronzes was the best at a SEA Games, performance was also positive in other avenues.

Over 500,000 spectators watched the sporting action live across 31 venues while over 850,000 people showed up for the SEA Games carnival. The Games also drew a YouTube audience of over 44 million.

Even then, organisers admit they have learnt several lessons from staging the Games.

Said Sport Singapore chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin, who was chairman of the Singsoc executive committee: "We have to be highly critical of ourselves in order to reach new peaks of excellence.

"There's always room for improvement, and I apologise for where we've made mistakes."

maychen@sph.com.sg

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 20, 2015, with the headline 'A CHALLENGE TO HOST C'WEALTH, ASIAN GAMES'. Print Edition | Subscribe