Athletics: Singapore in bid to host 2025 World Championships

If successful, the world's top athletics stars could converge at the Singapore Sports Hub in 2025. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The world's top athletics stars will converge at the Singapore Sports Hub, if the Republic's bid to host the 2025 World Athletics (WA) Championships is successful.

In a media statement hours after The Straits Times broke the news on Thursday (March 17) morning, national agency Sport Singapore (SportSG) announced Singapore25, the nation's bid for the 20th edition of the biennial competition.

Singapore "has set its sights on becoming the gateway for athletics for Southeast Asia, a region of untapped potential for the sport", it said in the statement, adding that it will partner hotel tycoon Ong Beng Seng, the man behind the success of the Singapore Grand Prix race, as it hopes to deliver a similar success.

The next World Championships will take place in Eugene, Oregon from July 15-24 after it was postponed a year because of the pandemic. The edition after that will be held in Budapest in 2023.

Japan, Kenya and Poland are understood to be among those who have also thrown their hats into the ring for the 2025 edition of the championships, with all three nations having hosted major athletics events recently.

Tokyo hosted the Olympics from July 23-Aug 8 last year, while Nairobi staged the World Under-20 Championships from Aug 18-22. Poland's Silesia, meanwhile, had hosted the 2021 WA Relays event in May.

Should Singapore's bid succeed, it would be the first time South-east Asia has staged the event. The competition has been staged in Asia only five times before. Japan hosted it twice, in Tokyo (1991) and Osaka (2007), and the meet was also staged in Daegu, South Korea (2011), Beijing, China (2015) and Doha, Qatar (2019).

An evaluation committee from WA is expected to carry out assessments of each party's bid and suitability in the coming months.

Despite Singapore's relative inexperience staging large-scale athletics events, it boasts the necessary infrastructure and world-class facilities. The 55,000-capacity $1.33 billion Sports Hub which opened in 2014 is understood to be a key selling point in Singapore's pitch.

The Republic is also an experienced hand at putting on a world-class show. In recent years, the international-level sports events that have taken place here include the HSBC Women's World Championship for golf, the tennis WTA Finals from 2014-2018, and the Formula One Singapore GP - which was recently extended for another seven years.

It has also staged legs of the HSBC Rugby Sevens series and Fina World Cup swimming.

In addition, Singapore is an attractive option as it allows WA to bring the championships to a new region, and one which has burgeoning athletic talent.

Indonesian sprinter Lalu Zohri, for instance, became the first South-east Asian to win gold at the U-20 World Championships in Finland in 2018, while Filipino pole vaulter Ernest Obiena holds the Asian record in his event.

Describing Singapore25 as a bid which "has the potential to be a game-changer for sports and athletics in the region", SportSG chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin said: "The World Athletics Championships has never been to South-east Asia.

"The region is home to 680 million people including 200 million under-35s, countless MNCs (multi-national companies) and over 30 tech unicorns.

"South-east Asia’s potential for new fans, partnerships, athletes, and heroes to take athletics to the next level is self-evident – and Singapore25 can be that springboard."

Lien Choong Luen, president of national track and field body Singapore Athletics, said: “Singapore25 will give our athletes and those from the region the opportunity to rub shoulders with the giants of the track and field and fire up more interest for the sport.

"This is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to inspire the athletes of tomorrow.”

Noting the Republic's previous success in staging top international events, Singapore Tourism Board chief executive officer Keith Tan said: “We hope to welcome the world’s best athletes and their fans to Singapore in 2025.

"We have a proven track record of hosting world-class sports events successfully, and Singapore25 would be a strong addition that boosts our vibrancy and attractiveness as a lifestyle destination."

It is understood WA will announce its selection for host of the 2025 Championships during the WA Championships in Oregon.

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