Coronavirus: Staging major sports event could signal that S'pore is open for business, says SportSG chief

Football fans during the International Champions Cup match between Manchester United and Inter Milan, at the Singapore Sports Hub on July 20, 2019.
Football fans during the International Champions Cup match between Manchester United and Inter Milan, at the Singapore Sports Hub on July 20, 2019.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Covid-19 pandemic has brought Singapore's sports events calendar to a standstill, with marquee events such as the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix, HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens and football's International Champions Cup axed in the last seven months.

Although there is uncertainty over whether these events will return any time soon, Sport Singapore (SportSG) chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin believes that the Singapore Rugby Sevens "looks set to be staged" in April next year ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. Hosting the event at the National Stadium could also demonstrate that Singapore is open for business, said Lim at the All That Matters business festival on Tuesday (Sept 15).

Speaking in an online session, Lim said: "We are working hard on the assumption that it (Singapore Sevens) will happen and that we will be able to create an engagement proposition with fans around the world that allows us to showcase that Singapore is open for business, showcase that a sporting event of that stature can still be run by bringing people together in a safe environment and to be able to engage at scale across the world, both digitally online as well as on traditional broadcast."

But the SportSG chief also emphasised the need to evaluate the situation and ask if it would make sense to open up travel for international teams and athletes.

The cancellation of international and local sports events has also highlighted the importance of raising the standards of the domestic sports leagues so that Singapore is not entirely reliant on such events to keep local sports fans entertained, added Lim.

While he did not provide more details, the 57-year-old said: "It would probably mean another form of a semi-professional, domestic league bringing in star attractions to feature the teams and make it a good proposition for us to develop our own athletes as well as to provide that entertainment."

Ahead of next year's SEA Games in Vietnam, which is scheduled for Nov 21 to Dec 2, Lim also said that it was crucial for countries in the region to work together to bring back sport in their respective countries and also competitions between countries.

As sports and physical activities resume in phase two of Singapore's reopening, Lim said the first steps for bringing back such activities would be focused on allowing more people to play sport.

Team sports such as football - which is currently limited to a cap of five people with no inter-mixing between groups - may take a little longer to return. Singapore Premier League clubs were given the nod to resume full contact training from Sept 1 and the league is looking at a possible restart before the end of the month.

 
 

The restart could pave the way for the resumption of other domestic leagues and eventually team sports for all, said Lim.

But he stressed that this would depend on the Government's direction, adding: "In all cases, safe management measures continue to rule so we have to be mindful and follow the national profile.

"That profile as you know in other industries is starting to open up. If everyone can play their part, by end of next year, I hope that we can see sport (as we know it) back and we are determined to make sure that happens."

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