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Old 28th December 2011, 07:42 AM   #1 (permalink)
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Singapore's sports future in trio's hands

http://www.channelnewsasia.com/stori...173634/1/.html

SINGAPORE: With the S$1.33 billion Sports Hub slated to be ready by April 2014, the task of charting Singapore's sporting future will take on greater urgency.

Apart from ensuring Singapore athletes reach the standard befitting of the world-class facility, the Republic's top sports administrators will also have to scour for ideas to reinvigorate the local sporting scene, and make Singaporeans fall in love with sports again.

Before becoming chairman of the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) last October, Richard Seow was better known as a sprinting prodigy, and the nation's fastest schoolboy in the late '70s.

Brigadier-General (NS) Lim Teck Yin started his tenure as the chief executive of the SSC in April and the former national water polo star's credentials include six SEA Games gold medals and an Asian Games bronze in 1986.

Completing the triumvirate was Major-General (NS) Chan Chun Sing, who was appointed Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS) following the General Election in May.

Together, the trio enjoyed a steady start as they strive to bring Singapore sport to the next level.

Compared to last year, when the Republic hosted the inaugural Youth Olympic Games and had successful outings at the Commonwealth and Asian Games, this year has not been as frenetic though no less an important year for sports.

Apart from sending one of the bigger contingents to the biennial SEA Games - which yielded 160 medals, of which 42 were gold - the Republic also hosted the Netball and Canoe Marathon World Championships, as well as the Volkswagen Women's Table Tennis World Cup.

The SingTel Formula 1 Singapore Grand Prix night race, no doubt, continues to be the "jewel" in the annual Formula 1 calendar.

Attracting bigger and better international sporting events to the Lion City will continue to be one of the key remits for these administrators as Singapore aims to cement itself as the region's premier sports hub.

Judging from the wide variety of sporting events in Singapore over the past 12 months - these include extreme sailing, powerboats, women's tennis exhibition, an international basketball game between Australia and China, as well as the visit of football legends Pele and Eric Cantona to promote the New York Cosmos - there is certainly no shortage of parties keen to woo Singapore.

Former Singapore international footballer R Sasikumar feels it is important that Chan, Seow and Lim speak to private promoters to find out what they have in mind.

As head of sports marketing company Red Card, Sasikumar partnered the Football Association of Singapore to organise the Canon Lion City Cup 2011 which saw Singapore's under-15 and under-16 teams take on youth teams from Juventus, Flamengo, Everton and Newcastle.

"Perhaps the SSC can take more risks with sports that Singaporeans are less familiar with," said Sasikumar. "They can also help to grow the industry by making their venues more affordable or consider underwriting the rental cost."

Financing is also a key issue which Annabel Pennefather, president of the Singapore Hockey Federation (SHF), hopes the MCYS and the SSC can help address.

"2012 could be a big year for us as we have been approached by the FIH (hockey's governing body) to host the launch event for their new initiative, the World Hockey League, which is set to be their new qualifying route for future World Cups and Olympics," said Pennefather.

According to Pennefather, the SHF are unable to commit to hosting the 12-team event (six each from men and women) scheduled for next August due to uncertainty in funding.

"We did ask the SSC for assistance and were told to expect the answer in February," she said.

"In the meantime, we have agreed to hold the Asian Hockey Federation Cup for women next year which will cost at least S$100,000, with the cost of hiring the Sengkang Hockey Stadium from the SSC taking up the bulk of the cost."

Nine months ago, former national sailor Koh Seng Leong, who competed at the 2000 Sydney and 2008 Beijing Olympics, switched to shooting.


Aiming to don Singapore colours as a trap shooter, the 28-year-old has been training five times a week, with the Singapore Shooting Association subsidising his training costs.

Recently back from a self-funded trip to the Thailand Open, Koh is aware he will need more exposure to overseas competitions to continue his development as a shooter. But without funding assistance, he will not be able to afford those trips, while the only way to get funding is to show results.

It is a conundrum which he hopes can be addressed by the nation's sports administrators.

"I hope the SSC will look into the issue of how to identify talent and allocate funding to develop them, and recognise that athletes need a little help before they can start showing some results," said Koh.

As for Singapore Rugby Union president Low Teo Ping, he sees a more active role for SSC's Seow and Lim.

"The SSC needs to become more proactive and less reactive," said Low. "Sports is about participation, high performance and the business of entertainment. The SSC should be the leading agency and be more independent in shaping the direction for sports in Singapore." - TODAY

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