Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Singapore counting cost of a Hub too far

Trade hub, travel hub, pharmaceuticals hub, even a media hub. You name it and Singapore has pumped a load of money in, offered some juicy incentives to big-ticket foreign investors and delivered on its grand plans in a flash.

But the S$1.9bn (US$1.4bn) Sports Hub, which was meant to replace the ageing National Stadium at Kallang, appears to have been a hub too far.

In a rare blow to Singapore's regional and international prestige, the city-state's sporting authorities have confirmed that they will not be able to host the 2013 Southeast Asian Games because of repeated delays to the Sports Hub project.

The new sports facility, which will incorporate a 55,000-seater stadium with retractable roof, is being built through a public-private partnership with French conglomerate Bouygues and was originally scheduled to be completed by 2010.

The project came a cropper because of funding difficulties brought about by the credit crunch. I'm a bit surprised that the government didn't step in to bail out the project. Presumably they preferred reputational damage to opening the purse strings.

Greece managed to pull off the Olympics, albeit in the nick of time. India looks like it will be able to hold the Commonwealth Games next year with some assistance. And even Laos managed to sort out its facilities in time for this year's SEA games thanks to some help from China and Vietnam.

So what's going on Singapore? When the Philippines, Myanmar and Vietnam are volunteering to take your place, you know you've got problems.

Incidentally, I like the way the Straits Times has spun this. The SEA Games Federation, reporter Leonard Lim tells us, has "endorsed" Singapore's "proposal" to give up hosting the games. That's like your boss endorsing your proposal to be late for work because you overslept.

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