Sports Hub promises to be ready for June's SEA Games
It has been touted as the centrepiece of the 2015 South-east Asia (SEA) Games, where the opening and closing ceremonies will be held and 10 out of 36 sports will be staged, including glamour events athletics, swimming and the football semi-finals and final.
For the first time since 1993, Singapore will host the biennial Games from June 5 to 16, and Sports Hub Pte Ltd (SHPL) has promised the $1.33 billion facility, featuring the 55,000-capacity National Stadium, will be in tip-top condition.
Since its soft launch last June, the Sports Hub has hosted 62 events, including women's tennis' prestigious WTA Finals held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in October, which was given a rating of 10 out of 10 by WTA chief executive Stacey Allaster.
However, the Hub has also had to grapple with a few issues, including the embarrassing pitch woes at the National Stadium which grabbed international headlines.
Last month, the retractable roof of the National Stadium literally rained on the parade at the Jay Chou concert after a downpour.
However, Sports Hub Pte Ltd (SHPL) are bullish they will be able to deliver a special experience for fans when the SEA Games rolls around.
Speaking at a media briefing with The New Paper yesterday at the National Stadium to mark the six-month milestone of operations, Mark Woodhams, chairman of the SHPL's board of directors, said: "We are very excited about the events planned for 2015 across all of our venues - sporting, community and entertainment.
"We are greatly looking forward to hosting these with the particular focus in the first instance on the SEA Games as we are acutely aware of how important to Singaporeans that that event is a success."
For commercial reasons, SHPL declined to reveal how much they will spend getting the Hub ready, but work on a new "lay and play pitch", leaky roof and a scoreboard at the OCBC Aquatic Centre has already started and in March, the consortium will also test the track at the National Stadium as the clock ticks down to the SEA Games.
NATIONAL STADIUM PITCH
The SEA Games opening ceremony on June 5 will be held on the much-maligned hybrid Desso pitch that currently sits at the National Stadium, before new natural turf is rolled out over it.
Philippe Delavaud, SHPL chief executive officer, said the changeover time will take 36 hours, adding that "part of the new pitch will be laid earlier to practise the logistics".
After the failure of the Desso turf, SHPL has decided to grow a natural pitch in a local nursery in partnership with an Australian company familiar with local conditions.
A second pitch, with a larger surface area, will also be maintained at the nursery. It will be deployed for sports that require a larger surface, like cricket. It can also be used to replace the first pitch when it is worn out by wear and tear.
SHPL has selected Eclipse from Motz Group as the turf backing system to ensure that it can be rolled up and transported to the National Stadium in optimal conditions and can be playable just after laying.
To deliver this natural turf, the consortium is in the midst of final discussions with experienced nurseries, as well as with certified contractors that have a strong track record in laying pitches at major stadiums. The contractors will be announced after they have been selected.
The cost of implementing the new turf solution will be fully borne by SHPL and will not be passed down to spectators and promoters.
Delavaud assured that the pitch would be suitable for top-class football, rugby and cricket.
"This type of turf is used in competitions like the Champions League and in European stadiums," the Frenchman revealed.
"One is designed to be used for cricket because for cricket you need the circle and the additional turf, so this is the kind of technology that's seen for cricket, and the pitch can also be replaced for football and rugby.
"After the SEA Games, we have selected warm season grass which will grow well under these conditions.
"We have artificial lighting, and we are improving our irrigation system in order to sustain the grass and continue to deliver a very good field of play. We also have insurance (in the second pitch) so if there is, for any reason, a need to replace the turf, we can be more flexible."
Added Woodhams: "It gives us the ability to optimise the event programme so that we don't have to leave the pitch for extended periods of time to recover, because we are able to replace it.
"That's very important because we want to keep and sustain a high-event programme."
NATIONAL STADIUM ROOF LEAKS
At least 20 concert-goers complained about rain coming through the unsheltered part of the National Stadium's west wing and also from leaks in the retractable roof during Chou's gig last month.
Addressing the issue yesterday, Delavaud said: "There are less than 30 leaking points which have been identified and repair works are carried out sector by sector. They will be completed by the One Direction concert (March 11)."
SHPL chief operating officer Oon Jin Teik added that the open end of the stadium - the west wing - is part of the design to communicate the spirit of the relationship between the old Kallang Stadium and the city by featuring views of the waterfront and city skyline.
OCBC AQUATIC CENTRE
Currently, the warm-up pool is located outside of the main building of the Aquatic Centre and the video/timing/results screen is too small and mounted on one side of the wall, making it difficult for anyone on the other side of the pool to check the results.
Oon, a former national swimmer who is also secretary general of the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA), said: "From Fina's angle, there is no issue. From SSA's angle, there are also no issues so far as well.
"We have had superstars competing in this complex and they have not had any issue themselves. Things like the water control temperature and everything else has been the same, so there is no issue so far.
"The training complex was built for warm-up purposes and also on normal days for the public, and you can also equalise the temperature in the pool.
"We have only one screen but we plan to have a new big screen hung from the roof (on the opposite side of the diving pool) in the next month or so. We plan to make it a permanent one."
With just 142 days to go to the 28th SEA Games, Oon wants SHPL and the SEA Games organising committee to take lessons from the 2009 Asian Youth Games and the 2010 Youth Olympic Games held here.
"We intend to humanise, to build the relationship and the ownership in the people to come and turn up at the Sports Hub. This part is very important, because you can't just be a venue.
"As part of the SEA Games, we want people to come, so we need to create the relationship and create the ownership. We will start to have activities to ramp up the excitement.
"We will fully support the SEA Games organising committee. They take the lead, and we support."
Expect fast times at National Stadium track
FASTER: Members of the public using the National Stadium track, which will be replaced by the Mondo Olympic-grade track for the SEA Games. PHOTO: ST FILE
The athletics programme is always the highlight of a major multi-sports event, and this year's South-east Asia (SEA) Games, which Singapore will host in June, is no different.
Maybe there is even more excitement for this year's event because of the new National Stadium.
While the track event will be held at the 55,000-capacity stadium, the SEA Games organising committee has still to decide if the field events will also be held there, or at the adjacent practice track, due to the possible sensitive nature of the new turf at the stadium.
Speaking to The New Paper yesterday, SHPL chief executive officer Philippe Delavaud said there will be exciting times for sprint events because of the "fast track".
The track has already been approved by IAAF and will be ready in time for the June 5 to 16 Games.
"The track is a Mondo Olympic-grade track and it is a fast running track," said the Frenchman.
"(The surface) is a little bit hard from a layman's standpoint. It's more for 100m and 200m sprints, not for daily use or people like me, for example.
"We tested it a few months ago, and we have a new period for full testing and configuration at the end of March, to fine-tune some of the last details... so that it can be ready in time for the SEA Games."
Currently covered, the track requires three to four days - of moving tiers and fine tuning - to be ready.
But that will not be an issue because by March, the 55,000-seater stadium, the centrepiece of the $1.33 billion Hub, will be transformed into athletics mode.
Said Delavaud: "Moving the tiers, working day and night, takes 48 hours.
"Around that, you need one day of preparations before and one day of fine-tuning after, so it's roughly three or four days. But, the track will be there from March."
Singapore athletes, along with some foreign stars, will test it out at the Singapore Track and Field Open on March 28 and 29.
Singapore Athletics Association (SAA) president Tang Weng Fei said they gave feedback after last year's trial run, which took place just before the Asian Games in Incheon in August.
Said Tang: "There were a few issues at the time, which we informed the Sports Hub.
"For example, some of the hurdle legs weren't capped, and a portion of the track was slightly scratched because of the planks which were in place to accommodate the spectator stands.
"Nothing major, but the wind (speed) was also an interesting issue. The stadium is designed in a way that wind blows in from just one side. We need to have it rotated within the venue, 360 degrees."
According to Tang, several athletes were happy with the faster track and requested for more opportunities to run at the venue.
The SAA duly brought forward the annual Open - usually held in August - to ensure local athletes spend time on the new race track.
"The Singapore Open will be a dry run for the SEA Games," said Tang.
"Our athletes will practise at the stadium three weeks before the Singapore Open and two weeks after, as well."
"The two major events that we had at the OCBC Arena — the Netball Nations Cup and the Mission Foods Asian Netball Championships — went fine. There was a minor problem with the (inconsistent) lighting in the OCBC Arena."
— Netball Singapore president Cyrus Medora
"Overall, fans were satisfied with show content. However, what fell short of expectations for some patrons were the leaky roof and sound quality from where they were seated."
— Adeline Low, events director of Multimedia Entertainment, who organised the Jay Chou concert on Dec 27