Athletics: Planning for athletics bonanza at Sports Hub under way

Shanti Pereira (fifth from left) finishing second in the women's 100m final at the Singapore Open Track and Field Championships at the National Stadium last year.
Shanti Pereira (fifth from left) finishing second in the women's 100m final at the Singapore Open Track and Field Championships at the National Stadium last year. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER FILE
(Left) Supporters cheering during the 52nd Schools National Track and Field Championships at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium in 2011. A similar level of involvement will be seen at this year's schools meet, which is likely to run alongside the Singapore Op
Supporters cheering during the 52nd Schools National Track and Field Championships at the Choa Chu Kang Stadium in 2011.PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER FILE

Discussions for a mega-meet in progress, to give students valuable Sports Hub exposure

Plans are afoot to organise an athletics extravaganza in three months' time as the Singapore Open, Asia Masters Championships and the Schools National Track and Field Championships will be hosted over two weekends at the Singapore Sports Hub.

This would give track and field student-athletes their first taste of competing under the iconic dome of the National Stadium, while a large-scale event featuring three athlete groups - students, Open and masters - would also mark a historic first for local athletics.

Singapore Athletics (SA) president Tang Weng Fei told The Straits Times: "Meaningful partnerships are very important for the development of athletics in Singapore.

"As the national sports association for the sport, we are delighted to be involved in the discussions with Sport Singapore (SportSG), Ministry of Education (MOE) and Sports Hub Pte Ltd in an effort to collaborate and create an exciting sporting event to raise the profile and participation in athletics."

MOE noted that discussions are at the "preliminary stage", but ST understands that the final day of the schools meet will likely run alongside the Singapore Open in the last week of April.

With the final day of the schools championships typically involving more than 20,000 students cheering their respective teams on in the stands, this would mean an audience comparable to that of last June's SEA Games for the Singapore Open.

Finals for the various student age groups - A, B and C divisions - are expected to be pencilled in with their counterparts in the Open category in the programme line-up.

With the Singapore Open held within the qualifying window for this year's Olympic Games, this means student-athletes are likely to compete alongside and watch high-level competition from international athletes targeting the quadrennial event in Rio de Janeiro.

The Asia Masters event will then take place the following week from May 4-8. It is understood that community events, aimed at promoting athletics, are also in the works.

Said a SportSG spokesman: "There are some good ideas on how SA, our schools, the Sports Hub and SportSG could work together to nurture exciting track and field events. We are pleased to contribute to these efforts."

While it would be a first for track and field student-athletes to compete at the National Stadium, school sports have been held there before.

Rugby players were the first to get that experience in 2014, when Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) beat St Andrew's Secondary in the national C Division final. Last year, footballers from Seng Kang Secondary and Hong Kah Secondary got their shot during a C Division quarter-final.

Still, National Junior College student Thiruben Thana Rajan is relishing a chance to retain his B Division 800m crown at the National Stadium.

Said the 16-year-old, who attended the track and field competition every day during the SEA Games: "It'll be a privilege if we can compete at the National Stadium. It's like a motivating factor for all up-and-coming athletes, and watching senior athletes will also push us to aspire to do better."

In an interview with ST on Tuesday, Sports Hub chief executive officer Manu Sawhney revealed that there are plans to hold the Schools National netball, basketball, swimming and water polo competitions at the 35ha facility this year. The opening ceremony to kick off the inter-school sports season will also be held at the Hub today.

As part of efforts to create a following of events at the Sports Hub, there are also plans to run events based on "seasons". For instance, the months March to May will surround rugby, while there are hopes to fill July and August with visits by football teams.

Said Sawhney: "We'd like to fill up the other months too. We don't have a home team so it's important to create a year-round calendar to get people excited."


Additional reporting by Sanjay Nair

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 28, 2016, with the headline 'Athletics bonanza planning under way'. Print Edition | Subscribe