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Diary: SAA Centre of Excellence & Singapore Sportshub
  • April 1st, 2007


An online diary contribution by our Team Singapore athlete Abdul Hakeem. His specialized events includes the hurdles and the relays

Hey guys, this is Hakeem here. I will be discussing the proposed Sports Hub and Bukit Gombak stadium.

Well as you know, the first Sports Hub proposal is out. It’s a spectacular ‘Horseshoe’ design. At first glance, I have to admit that it looks ultra modern and world class, akin to the grand Bukit Jalil Stadium in KL. Its innovative features, such as the ability to flood the stadium to transform it into a water sports arena, are impressive, and I will be proud to have such a stadium in Singapore.

I do have a concern however, about this proposed horseshoe. Because of the design, there will be a gap on one end of the stadium. While it serves practical and architectural purposes, I wonder about its faithfulness to sport.

Did SAA made the right move to setup Centre of Excellence at Gombak stadium?

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It has been said that the Gap will allow a natural breeze to enter the stadium. Would the Gap however cause tailwinds and headwinds on the track straights? Some might think the tailwinds will be better for the sprint events. However, there is a very fine line between just enough wind and too much. If these winds get just little too strong, Stadium records, National records, and maybe even World records in the future will be annulled. Would the slight winds also disrupt sports such as Football and rugby? I understand that additional seating can be installed if there is a need to, and potentially close the gap. However, how often can this be done? I hope the stadium designers have taken these into consideration.

I would favour a more traditional stadium design. When I picture an iconic stadium, the new Beijing Olympic stadium comes to mind. Its bird nest inspired outer shell is beautifully designed, something out of a dream. Another example would be the new Allianz Arena in Germany, with its facade being adorned with air inflated panels, capable of being lit up in different colours. A spectacular sight at night it has to be said.

And it also frustrates me that the NDP will be held in the Sports Hub once the Stadium is completed. As has been mentioned in an article on this website, the Kallang Stadium track, after years of abuse by marching soldiers and rolling motorcades of heavy duty military vehicles, has deteriorated to such a state that air bubbles have been formed, and filth decorates the once red balsam track.

I do understand that the track has not been maintained in awhile, and that since the stadium is due for demolition anyway, we can excuse the state of disrepair the track is in. However, even when I was in secondary school, 6-7 years ago, I remember running on the Track in Kallang for our Track Finals, and the track was always dirtied with NDP preparations. Let’s face it, NDP spoils the track surface, and the stadium has to be closed off or limited in its public usage a few months in advance. How can we accommodate world-class events all year round, when our NDP takes up such a long time frame? I’m sure it can be held in other venues, the Marina Bay NDP being held this year is a good example.


With the world-class stadium being proposed, I hope that the annual National School’s Track and Field Championships can make a return to the National Stadium. I remember the pride I had when I first ran in Kallang. The feeling was great. People’s cheers could be heard from everywhere and there was a genuine atmosphere. However, when the meet moved to Chua Chu Kang Stadium, it lost the atmosphere. I wish for all school athletes to have experienced this feeling at least once in their lives.

Bukit Gombak / SAA Centre of Excellence saga

That being said, I feel the criticism on our Bukit Gombak Stadium is harsh. What attracts world-class athletes are not the Stadium facilities. We can hold our Singapore Open in the grandest stadium in the world and top athletes will still not come. What attracts them is prize money. When I went to Europe for a training camp, I ran in meets which were being held in places worse off than Gombak, where the Grand Stands were half the size. But quick athletes were there anyway because of the prize money, and also the proximity of these meets to other meets in the circuit.

World Class athletics events are also seldom held in places where World Class athletes are not present. A look at the IAAF calendar would prove this point. The only meets, which are Area Permit Meetings that enable athletes to score points for the World Athletics Tour, and do not have so-called World Class athletes, are held in Thailand and India. Even these 3 meets are part of the Asian Grand Prix. So, for World Class meets to be held in Singapore, we either have to have an athletics culture capable of producing World Class athletes, or be prepared to offer Prize Money which rivals the World Class meets. And this means attracting private sponsors, amongst other things. Definitely, world-class facilities are not the only factors in hosting World Class meets.


Criticism on Bukit Gombak being used as the SAA Centre of Excellence (COE) is also uncalled for. Training in Singapore is such that it is hard for athletes to gather in any one stadium. The majority of local coaches are school coaches. As such, they hold most of their trainings in stadiums close by to their respective schools, or even in the schools themselves, and the athletes who are training with them, regardless of whether they are part of the school or not, will train where their coaches are. I was training in Bukit Gombak for awhile, but since changing coaches, I have moved my training to the Sports School.

A white elephant is a supposedly valuable possession whose upkeep exceeds its usefulness, and it is therefore a liability (credit to wikipedia). Bukit Gombak is hardly a ‘white elephant’. Not many people know this, but for the past few years, foreign athletes have been using Singapore as a training base for Training Camps, with Bukit Gombak their designated training facility. Athletes from Germany, Lebanon, Qatar, and even Switzerland have been to Bukit Gombak. And on Saturdays, the stadium is filled with athletes training. More and more athletes are going to Bukit Gombak Stadium to train.

As to whether most local athletes know that Bukit Gombak Stadium is the COE, if they do not know, then they are not athletes. The reason I say this is because most local meets that were held in the past 4 years have been held in Bukit Gombak. All athletes have to do when approaching the Stadium is to open their eyes, and look at the big banner saying SAA CENTER OF EXCELLENCE. SAA, by the way, stands for Singapore Athletics Association. The only way for these local athletes not to have seen the banner then, is for them not to have gone to the stadium before. And I highly doubt that so many of our local athletes have not competed before.

Catch you guys later


Posted by Abdul Hakeem.
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