Singapore Sports Hub: Highs and lows since 2014

The building of the Sports Hub was an ambitious bid to turn Singapore into a vibrant sports city. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The Government's plans for the new Sports Hub were first announced in 2003. The idea was for the old National Stadium to be torn down and replaced by a $650 million multi-purpose sports complex, in an ambitious bid to turn Singapore into a vibrant sports city.

It was hoped that replacing the old stadium, which was built in 1973, with a sleek new model would help Singapore host world-class sporting events. That would bring prestige, more exposure for athletes and tourist dollars, not to mention raised standards.

Construction would start in 2005 and the new complex ready by 2009.

In 2008, the then Singapore Sports Council announced that the Singapore Sports Hub Consortium (SSHC) had been selected as the preferred bidder for the Sports Hub project.

Now known as the Sports Hub Pte Ltd, it is a private consortium comprising three equity partners - Infrared Capital Partners, Global Spectrum Asia and Cushman & Wakefield Facilities & Engineering - who operate the facility. Engineering and construction company Dragages Singapore was previously a part of the consortium but is no longer referenced on the Sports Hub website.

The redevelopment would be funded by a public-private partnership.

Then Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Vivian Balakrishnan had noted: "SSHC provided a holistic strategy to promote sports participation, leisure, entertainment and lifestyle activities via a focus on community and grassroots sports. Its integrated approach will create foot traffic and promote vibrancy at the Sports Hub.

"Their strategy is supported by a comprehensive sporting calendar that guarantees at least 90 event days at the National Stadium and 46 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. It consists of a well-balanced mix of local, regional and international sporting events and activities targeted at various different target segments."

Nearly 20 years after the idea was first mooted, the hub has been built, but the partnership has not been a honeymoon. In a major move, the Government announced on Friday (June 10) that it will take over control and management of the $1.33 billion facility from Dec 9.

Here is a timeline of the highs and lows of the Sports Hub since 2014:

Pitch not perfect

August 2014

The National Stadium hosts its first football match as Italian giants Juventus beat a Singapore selection 5-0. Juventus coach Massimiliano Allegri does not play star striker Carlos Tevez because he fears the pitch's poor quality will result in an injury to the Argentinian.

October 2014

Brazil's Neymar celebrating after scoring against Japan during the international friendly at the Sports Hub on Oct 14, 2014. PHOTO: ST FILE

Brazil thump Japan 4-0 in an exhibition match, with superstar Neymar scoring all four goals. But defender Filipe Luis calls the pitch "horrible", and Sport Singapore laments that the sandy pitch was a "significant disappointment".

October 2014

Singapore risks being stripped of co-hosting rights for the AFF Suzuki Cup because a Jay Chou concert and an exhibition rugby match slated at the Sports Hub just before the tournament contravene Asean Football Federation requirements. The concert is moved and the rugby match is eventually scrapped, but Singapore crash out at the group stage.

December 2014

Sports Hub announces it will replace the problematic pitch with a "lay and play" solution, and bear the full cost.

May 2015

The National Stadium's new "lay and play" Eclipse Stabilised Turf is laid, and wins praise for its smooth surface.

June 2015

The Sports Hub is the main event venue for the SEA Games, which returns to Singapore for the first time in 22 years.

Costs and calendar

November 2015

The 2016 Asia Masters Athletics Championships is almost moved to the more modest 3,500-seater Bishan Stadium after national body Singapore Athletics is quoted $620,000 for four days' rental - double the event's entire budget. The meet eventually takes place at the National Stadium, but only after the rental costs are reduced.

December 2015

The staging of the 2016 National Day Parade (NDP) is in jeopardy after SHPL sets a $26 million price tag on 35 extra rehearsal days. The figure is reportedly lowered to $10 million later, but the total cost of staging the parade at Kallang is estimated to be $39.4 million, about double that of the cost of having it at the Marina Bay floating platform. It remains the only time the NDP is staged at the Sports Hub. When the event was eventually staged in 2016, the national flag did not appear on the roof as planned.

Fireworks at the Sports Hub during the National Day Parade 2016. That was the only year the NDP was staged at the Sports Hub. PHOTO: ST FILE

December 2016

ST reports that several suite owners are unlikely to renew their contracts with the Sports Hub after a threadbare 2016 events calendar.

March 2017

Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth Baey Yam Keng, speaking in Parliament, urges SHPL to enhance the vibrancy of the Hub and improve the quality of its calendar of events and programming.

March 2020

SHPL has been fined over unmet standards, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth Baey Yam Keng tells Parliament. While not specifying on the standards or the quantum of the fine, he notes: "SHPL is required to meet a minimum number of sporting event days at the National Stadium and Singapore Indoor Stadium each year. Where they have not met the standards, they have been held accountable and financial penalties have been imposed."

Sporting highs and lows

June 2014

SportsHub Pte Ltd (SHPL) opens the doors to the Singapore Sports Hub. The first event held at the $1.33 billion venue is the South-east Asian Swimming Championships at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.

June 2015

The Sports Hub is the main event venue for the SEA Games, which returns to Singapore for the first time in 22 years.

June 2017

Argentina players celebrating their first goal against Singapore in a friendly on June 13, 2017. PHOTO: ST FILE

Argentina, sans Lionel Messi, beat Singapore 6-0 in an exhibition match to mark the 125th-year anniversary of the Football Association of Singapore. Some 28,000 fans turn up but the star of the team, Lionel Messi, does not feature.

July 2017

Singapore becomes the first South-east Asian country to host the International Champions Cup. The first edition of the competition in the Republic features Bayern Munich, Chelsea and Inter Milan. The game between Bayern and Chelsea draws over 48,000 fans though subsequent fixtures draw far more modest turnouts.

January 2018

The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) announces that Singapore, which had staged the WTA Finals at the Singapore Indoor Stadium since 2014, will be replaced by China as host of the season-ender starting from 2019. Shenzhen's bid for the WTA Finals included a promise to double the tournament's prize money from US$7 million (S$9.7 million) to US$14 million annually - a figure that Singapore did not match.

June 2018

The Sports Hub and Singapore Tourism Board announce a strategic partnership with the Ultimate Fighting Championship for the first multi-year live event deal in Asia-Pacific, which will see UFC stage annual Fight Night events at the Singapore Indoor Stadium till 2020.

March 2019

The Singapore Sports Hub and local e-sports organisation Team Flash announce the signing of a talent development partnership where the hub will house a new dedicated training facility for Team Flash at the OCBC Arena.

July 2019

Ronaldo celebrating after scoring for Juventus against Tottenham in the ICC match in Singapore on July 21, 2019. PHOTO: ST FILE

The Sports Hub hosts Manchester United, Juventus, Tottenham Hotspur and Inter Milan for the ICC. Cristiano Ronaldo is the biggest draw as more than 103,000 fans flock to the stadium over two games.

October 2019

Brazil play Senegal and Nigeria in friendly matches. An underwhelming 41,000 fans turn up over the two matches, which both played out 1-1 draws. A ticketing fiasco also leads to public complaints.

Musical highs and lows

July 2014

Stefanie Sun is the first pop act to perform at the new National Stadium during her Kepler world tour concert in July. There are about 20,000 attendees. The overall sound with reverb, is rather murky. The venue is also reported to become warm and stuffy owing to the retractable roof.

September 2016

More than 1,500 fans of Taiwanese pop star Jay Chou sign a petition asking for a refund after sound issues plague his Sept 3 concert.

April 2017

British band Coldplay put on two blockbuster shows at the National Stadium, putting to bed sound issues of the past. They draw 100,000 fans over two nights.

January 2018

Jay Chou performing at the National Stadium on Jan 6, 2019. PHOTO: MULTIMEDIA ENTERTAINMENT

Jay Chou performs a sold-out show for The Invincible 2 Jay Chou Concert Tour 2018.This is his second show here, proving to be an improvement after the first one that had sparked many controversies. The acoustics and visuals are considered good.

Korean band BTS perform for a sold-out National Stadium.

March 2019

Maroon 5 perform for their Red Pill Blues Tour for a crowd of more than 47,000.

April 2019

Ed Sheeran plays to a 51,000-strong crowd at the National Stadium. It is his biggest show in Singapore to date.

August 2019

Westlife return to the stage after a six-year hiatus with The Twenty Tour at the National Stadium, playing to a crowd of 20,000.

December 2019

U2 hold The Joshua Tree Tour over two days, drawing more than 100,000 people as they play to a sold-out National Stadium.

JJ Lin stages his two-day homecoming Sanctuary 2.0 concert, drawing 40,000 fans on each night. The shows are considered a huge success. He was the first Asian singer to perform two sold-out shows at the National Stadium.

May 2022

The crowd at Taiwanese singer A-lin's concert at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on May 28, 2022. ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

About 8,000 people attend Taiwanese diva A-lin's show at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the first large-scale live concert since the start of the pandemic.

Leadership carousel

October 2015

Frenchman Philippe Collin-Delavaud steps down as chief executive and is replaced by Manu Sawhney.

May 2017

Singaporean Manu Sawhney resigns from his post despite being cleared of any wrongdoing following an anonymous letter of complaint about his alleged treatment of staff.

January 2018

Former national swimmer and Singapore Sports Council chief Oon Jin Teik is named the new CEO of the Singapore Sports Hub.

January 2019

Mr Oon quits, shortly after the resignations of chief operating officer Wong Lup Wai and chief financial officer Sandy Tay. Mr Bryn Jones, the hub's chairman, takes over as acting CEO until its "global search" for a replacement bears fruit.

November 2019

Former Singapore Tourism Board CEO Lionel Yeo is appointed the new CEO. He is set to start work in February 2020. It is also announced that chief commercial officer Adam Firth will leave before that, with five of his team having left in prior months.

Sports Hub CEO Lionel Yeo speaking during a media briefing on June 10, 2022. ST PHOTO: LIM YAOHUI

Covid-19

February 2020

The National Stadium open house is cancelled as a result of the coronavirus. This is followed by a slew of other cancellations or postponements, including the ICC and the Rugby Sevens, as the pandemic widens.

April 2020

The Sports Hub converts its OCBC Arena halls, and later the National Stadium, to temporarily house about 800 foreign workers who provide essential services, and do not have Covid-19 symptoms. Various venues run by Sport Singapore also do the same.

Life after Covid-19

October 2020

MMA organisation One Championship begins staging events again at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

February 2021

The Singapore Tennis Open - the first ATP 250 tournament to be held in the Republic - is held at the OCBC Arena.

December 2021

The Global Sports Innovation Centre powered by Microsoft partners Sport Singapore to launch its Asia-Pacific headquarters at the Singapore Sports Hub.

Sixteen football matches are played at the National Stadium in December 2021 at the AFF Suzuki Cup, which is the largest sports event to be held in Singapore during the pandemic. Some 85,000 fans attend the matches over four weeks.

A cap of 10,000 spectators per match is introduced as part of Covid-19 measures.

March 2022

The inaugural US$2 million (S$2.71 million) Singapore Smash, one of table tennis' premier events, is staged at the OCBC Arena.

A pandemic-record crowd of 14,896 watch Singapore beat Malaysia 2-1 in a friendly at the National Stadium.

April 2022

Argentina and Scotland playing in the Singapore Rugby Sevens on April 9, 2022. ST PHOTO: ARIFFIN JAMAR

A total of 22,000 spectators fill the National Stadium over two days to catch the HSBC Singapore Rugby Sevens, which is the first major sporting event to allow food and beverage options, including alcohol, within the spectator stands since the pandemic struck.

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