By Michael Y. P. Ang
Former national swimmer Oon Jin Teik will become the Sports Hub’s chief operating officer in May, The Straits Times reported last Friday.
I cannot think of a better person to direct operations at the hub. It is not because Jin Teik is passionate about sport or that he once donned national colours. There are many other former national athletes who are similarly passionate.
Crucially, Jin Teik is a former chief executive officer of the Singapore Sports Council. He led the national sports promotion agency from early 2004 to the end of 2010, during which he oversaw the early development of the Sports Hub.
With his intimate knowledge of Singapore’s sports scene and vast business experience, Singaporeans can be optimistic that the former Olympic swimmer will be able to ensure that all systems at the Sports Hub go swimmingly.
The path to Jin Teik’s return to Singapore sport might have been carved out as early as September last year, when his employer, Hyflux Ltd, announced that Jin Teik’s work in Shanghai would soon be taken over by a new China CEO and, upon completing his three-year China assignment, Jin Teik would return home to assume a new role within Hyflux.
The Sports Hub’s senior management, reeling from an apparent inability to attract earth-shattering events to the Republic and a ticketing controversy that have incurred the wrath of customers and event promoters, must have been delighted with the homecoming of a proven manager and promoter of sport in Singapore.
Back in his homeland since January, Jin Teik perhaps could not resist the opportunity to offer his expertise to Kallang’s sports hub. After all, he was part of the team that recommended the Singapore Sports Hub consortium for the $1.33-billion public-private partnership project, during the 2007 bidding process, which included two other consortia.
Struggling to live up to hype, but there’s hope
Like any keen observer, Jin Teik himself must have noticed that the Sports Hub is struggling to live up to all the hype.
High-profile events such as next month’s Singapore Open badminton tournament, the ONE Fighting Championship in May, and October’s Women’s Tennis Association Championships will all be held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, which has been hosting sports and entertainment events since it opened in the late 1980s.
What does the indoor arena’s staging of the three tournaments or nine entertainment events later this year, have anything to do with the Sports Hub project? Whether the Sports Hub exists or not, the indoor stadium would still be hosting those events.
One would have expected the hub’s senior management to save the best for the new National Stadium’s historic opening act. Instead, they are offering Singaporeans the inaugural World Club 10s rugby event in June.
Why rugby? It may be popular among Singapore’s immigrants from Western countries, but the majority of Singaporeans are simply not interested in the sport.
Fortunately, the search for success has not completely come up dry. The FINA World Cup swimming event is poised to make a splash at the 6,000-seater OCBC Aquatic Centre in November. This event is worth watching out for, especially since the Singapore leg is the final one in an eight-part circuit.
Although one global swimming event is not enough to make all the difference, one former competitive swimmer may turn out to be the Sports Hub’s saviour. The affable and modest Jin Teik was instrumental in helping Singapore secure and host the F1 Singapore Grand Prix, a unique city night race.
As Jin Teik takes the driver’s seat, there is real hope of the Sports Hub riding the highway to success, becoming a much sought-after venue where Singaporeans, immigrants, and visitors alike get to enjoy various world-class events that add genuine value to the Republic’s sports ecosystem.