Coronavirus: Situation in Singapore

S'pore to hold first live sports event with fans next Friday

In a first since start of pandemic, 250 One Championship fans will watch event inside indoor stadium

Singaporean fighter Amir Khan (top) taking on India's Rahul Raju at One Championship's Reign of Dynasties closed-door event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Oct 9. For next Friday's Inside the Matrix event, fans will need to take an antigen rapid t
Singaporean fighter Amir Khan (top) taking on India's Rahul Raju at One Championship's Reign of Dynasties closed-door event at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Oct 9. For next Friday's Inside the Matrix event, fans will need to take an antigen rapid test for Covid-19 at designated clinics on the day of the fight before admission. Friday's event will feature six fights, including four world title bouts. PHOTO: ONE CHAMPIONSHIP

Singapore will stage a live sporting event with fans next Friday for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic, as 250 spectators will be allowed inside the 12,000-seat Singapore Indoor Stadium for One Championship's Inside the Matrix event.

The mixed martial arts promotion announced this yesterday and said fans will need to take an antigen rapid test for Covid-19 at designated clinics on the day of the fight before admission.

This is in addition to other safety measures such as wearing a mask at all times and temperature screenings. As part of the safe seating plan, patrons who purchase up to five tickets can be seated together, and different groups of five will be placed two to three seats apart.

Each ticket costs $148, and the cost of the antigen rapid test, which can produce results in about 30 minutes, is complimentary.

This will be One's second event in a month. It successfully held a closed-door production at the same venue on Oct 9.

The Government had announced on Tuesday that participants in large-scale occasions such as weddings, live performances, sporting events and business-to-business events will have to obtain a negative result in an antigen rapid test before admission under a new pilot meant to help the country resume more activities safely.

Covid-19 cases in Singapore are generally confirmed with polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests. But these take far longer than the antigen rapid test - hours at least, rather than minutes - to process, although they are more accurate.

With little to no community spread in recent days, Dr Piotr Chlebicki, an infectious diseases specialist at Mount Alvernia Hospital Singapore, believes that this is the right time for Singapore to start with such test events, especially with the strict measures in place.

He told The Straits Times: "With all kinds of precautions being taken, it would be very okay to try it (allow a small group of fans to watch the event live). Sooner or later, we will have to try more of these events because of the good situation."

While he feels that the measures for next Friday's event are sufficient, he stressed that organisers should limit attendees to those who reside here. Dr Chlebicki also feels that there is little room for error as this will be a litmus test for other mass events to follow. He said: "The challenge is that they will be the first and they will be very carefully watched so they have to make sure everything is done properly."

Stringent measures were put in place for the Oct 9 One event, and these will be followed again. Then, overseas-based fighters were tested four times - before they flew to Singapore, upon arrival, before and after the fight - while others were tested twice.

The athletes and their support crew were required to remain in isolation until they got a negative test result. While they were here, travelling was limited to the event "bubble", and fighters had to follow strict schedules. They were accompanied by liaison officials at all times.

Next Friday's event will feature six fights, including four world title bouts.

German Paul Hoffmann, 33, bought a ticket upon hearing the news. It will be his first time watching a One event live.

The auditor, who has been in Singapore since October last year, said: "I am happy that Singapore is going back to some form of normalcy.

"I didn't expect that it would happen this year (being able to attend sports events), so in the morning when I saw that it was open, I thought that it was amazing because there are four title fights."

Other live sports here have been allowed to resume. The Singapore Premier League football competition, the country's only professional league which had been suspended since March, restarted last Saturday behind closed doors.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 24, 2020, with the headline 'S'pore to hold first live sports event with fans next Friday'. Print Edition | Subscribe