Sporting Singapore springs back to life as stadiums, pools and gyms reopen in phase 2

People exercising at Bukit Gobak Stadium on June 19, 2020. ST PHOTO: TIMOTHY DAVID

SINGAPORE - With the lush greenery of Bukit Batok Nature Park as a backdrop, housewife Samsiah Mohd enjoyed a 30-minute brisk walk at Bukit Gombak Stadium on Friday (June 19) morning.

The 66-year-old was one of the many Singaporeans who visited sports facilities that reopened in phase two of post-circuit breaker measures. The measures are part of the Republic's efforts to battle the coronavirus pandemic.

"It is nice to be able to go out again to the stadiums to just walk and get some fresh air," said Madam Samsiah, who was alone and told The Straits Times she lives near the stadium.

"Of course, I understand things are not exactly the same as before, but it is not a problem."

Some 8,000 slots for places at swimming pools, gyms and sports halls were reportedly snapped up within 10 hours of bookings opening at 7am on Thursday.

Entry to all ActiveSG facilities, except stadiums, is only via online bookings. This is enable facility operators to keep a tight watch over the number of people in each venue as the operating capacity of these facilities is restricted to 10 sq m per person, or a maximum of 50 people per facility.

Among the things which will become the norm for those visiting sports facilities during this period is the need for SafeEntry check-ins and temperature screenings.

Only one point of entry and and another for exit are open at each public sports facility such as stadiums, swimming pools and gyms.

In its advisory to the public, national sports agency Sport Singapore (SportSG) said that exercising in groups is limited to five people, and that socialising is not permitted beyond the sports and fitness activities.

Still, this did not deter Singaporeans from flocking to the facilities.

At Bukit Gombak Stadium, some 46 people were present when gates opened at 7am.

The scene was quieter at Clementi Stadium, where Mr Jason Ng was among just three people running on the track.

The self-employed 42-year-old said he frequently ran at Clementi before the circuit breaker kicked in and all sports facilities were shut down on April 7.

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He said: "I prefer running at the stadium because I get to hit my targets (distance) without having to think about coming up with a route or worrying about things like traffic lights... So to me, these safety protocols are not an issue at all. In fact, I believe they are necessary."

Public gyms were also popular with users.

Student P. Chandru, who visited the Hockey Village Gym in Boon Lay - a public facility - was required to make a booking through the ActiveSG app, and said the gym was crowded with users.

The 19-year-old said he treated the gym almost like a "second home" before the circuit breaker, and said he was looking forward to frequenting the gym again.

But he added: "There was a time limit (of 90 minutes) for each user, which I feel is not enough for some.

"Moreover, some of the equipment had become rusty. Overall, however, my experience was still satisfactory."

While some were happy to be running on the running track or clanging weights in the gym, others relished the chance to plunge into water again.

Mr Derek Wong, 55, went for an hour-long swim at the National University of Singapore Society (NUSS) Kent Ridge Guild House, and said that each swimmer was allowed to swim in his own lane.

The project manager, who swam at least four times and ran twice a week before the circuit breaker period, said: "It felt good to be in the pool and experiencing being buoyant after a long time... the feeling is different.

"The strokes are still there but you're just not used to it, so my speed has definitely dropped a bit."

Golfers also returned to the fairways on Friday.

Veteran sports administrator Low Teo Ping, who played a game at the Singapore Island Country Club's Island Course, said he had been counting the days - 72 to be precise - since his last game.

And even though there were new rules to adhere to - the Singapore Golf Association published its safe management plan for golf clubs and public golf facilities on Thursday - Mr Low said he basked in being able to stroll out onto the greens again.

"It feels great to play again, in the open and taking in the elements of nature, especially after being cooped up in the house for so many days," said the 75-year-old, who plans to play another round of golf on Saturday, this time at the Sentosa Golf Club.

Among SGA's guidelines are on-course restrictions designed to stem the spread of Covid-19, like the removal of all touchable surfaces, and restricting the use of buggies to one per person.

On the new protocols, Mr Low said the experience was "surreal at times", and added: "You become a little bit more conscious of the need for social distancing, you don't shake hands and things like that... you become more restrained."

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