Leonard Thomas: Sports Hub know they must deliver for SEA Games
Brazil may have arrived here last October scarred after a nightmare defeat by Germany on home soil, but the consortium would have hoped Neymar would still be able to summon magic for Singaporeans to gasp, and forget.
The muscles, limbs and minds of the tennis players were predictably tired after a gruelling season, but the competition's prize was delicious, and also prestigious, and the team at Sports Hub Pte Ltd (SHPL) surely itched for them to dig deep and deliver, and raise thrilling cheers from fans here.
The Sports Hub opened for business in the middle of 2014 and the consortium seemed unable to exorcise the ugly state of the National Stadium pitch for the rest of the year, although football star Neymar and his Brazilian teammates did their best to make us all wonder over all the fuss, at least for a while, when he struck a startling four times against Japan to forever associate himself with the Lion City, and Singapore sport's grandest arena.
The top eight women tennis players in the world mostly wowed at the Indoor Stadium, and after an early wobble, world No. 1 Serena Williams, already one of the greatest of all time, etched her name into our history books when she became the first winner of the WTA Finals on Singapore soil.
Even if there were some highs during the first six months of Hub operations, it seemed as if it was persistently weighed down by the poor state of the hybrid Desso pitch.
Singapore will host the 28th South-east Asia (SEA) Games in less than five months and it will be the biggest test of the Sports Hub since it came to life last June.
The facility, with the 55,000-capacity National Stadium as its centrepiece, will be the main venue for the region's biggest sports event and after a tough few months, and with lessons learnt, SHPL vowed yesterday to deliver a Hub that will raise the right ruckus at the SEA Games and make Singapore proud.
It is crucial the consortium delivers on its promise because this year's SEA Games - the first to be held here since 1993 - has to be used as a springboard for youngsters here to fall in love with sport.
It is crucial that the consortium gets it right because Singaporeans need to embrace the $1.33 billion facility and turn it into a hotbed of sporting activity for the foreseeable future.
Mark Woodhams, chairman of the Board of Directors of SHPL, seems to get it.
We met yesterday and I was heartened when he very quickly apologised to Singapore for the problems that dogged the Hub last year in his opening remarks.
He vowed they would get it right for the SEA Games and expressed faith in the management team led by SHPL chief executive officer Phillippe Delavaud and chief operating officer Oon Jin Teik.
Who both also seem to get it.
Frenchman Delavaud addressed topics like the new "lay and play" pitch and the quality of the track for athletics clearly yesterday and also vowed they will be ready.
Oon revealed that they would not only get the facility ready to host the opening and closing ceremonies and the 10 sports to be held at the Hub - including the three biggest, football, athletics and swimming - but also start a steady drumbeat well before the Games in a bid to whip up a fever among Singaporeans.
He was a witness when the small group of Myanmar fans drowned out thousands of meek Singaporeans during a Suzuki Cup clash at the National Stadium last November.
Along with many others in his team, Oon would surely have bristled, and quietly admired the small group of fabulously loud and harmonious Malaysian Ultras who outshone a meek crowd of more than 40,000 followers of the Lions days later.
The Olympian - he swam in the 1984 Los Angeles Games - will remember the days of the Kallang Roar and wants the Sports Hub to play a role in reviving it.
Yes, these days Singapore are winning global honours, butterfly sprinter Joseph Schooling is already threatening the best in the world and our sailors show tremendous promise.
A NEW GENERATION
But June's SEA Games has the ability to acquaint a whole new generation of Singaporeans with the power of sport.
Much of the burden will fall on Singapore's SEA Games organising committee to deliver a programme that will succeed in that goal.
But the Sports Hub consortium also has an important role to play in this mission.
It realises how important the SEA Games is and arranged for big gun Woodhams to talk to Singapore media yesterday.
The London-based executive expressed his pride over what SHPL have achieved after six months of operations and, he is confident they will deliver.
For Singapore's sake, they cannot afford to fail.