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Former Sentosa chief Quek Swee Kuan to head Sports Hub from Dec 1

The man who had a hand in transforming Sentosa into the nation’s primary playground, Quek Swee Kuan, has now been tasked with turning the Singapore Sports Hub into a similar proposition.

Former Sentosa Development Corporation (SDC) chief executive Quek’s appointment as the Hub’s new leader was announced on Friday and he will take over from current CEO Lionel Yeo, who has held the role since February 2020.

Keith Magnus, chairman of investment banking advisory firm Evercore’s Asia business, has been appointed the Sports Hub’s chairman. Both Quek and Magnus will start their new roles on Dec 1.

Quek, the current chief executive of New Business at Surbana Jurong, will be the fifth man to helm the eight-year-old Hub on a permanent basis. His predecessors were Frenchman Philippe Collin-Delavaud (March 2011-December 2015), former ESPN Star Sports managing director Manu Sawhney (October 2015-May 2017), former national swimmer Oon Jin Teik (January 2018-April 2019) and former tourism chief Yeo.

Quek had been SDC’s chief from October 2015 to May 2020 and according to Permanent Secretary (Development) for the Ministry of Trade and Industry Lee Chuan Teck, under Quek, the island was anchored as “a leading leisure destination that appeals to both local and foreign visitors”. He led the development of the SentosaBrani Masterplan and other key initiatives, including a year-round calendar of attractions to transform Sentosa into an award-winning “day-to-night” destination.

His prior experience at the Economic Development Board (EDB) and Singapore Tourism Board (STB) will also come in handy as the Government seeks to make the Sports Hub more accessible to the broader community for sports, lifestyle, entertainment and social activities, and also develop Kallang into a vibrant and integrated sports, wellness and lifestyle precinct.

In a Facebook post, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong noted that Quek’s background meant he had relevant experience and made him “a good candidate”. He added: “He resonated deeply with our vision of a sporting Singapore, where sports and Sports Hub can be a part of the life of every Singaporean.”

He then referred, tongue in cheek, to Quek’s allegiance to English football giants Tottenham, who last won the league title in 1961: “I paused a little when he told me that he is a Tottenham Hotspur fan. Only a little. Because I thought anyone with enough passion and loyalty to a club like Spurs, would bring a lot to the table, for the Sports Hub!”

Mr Tong noted that Magnus, whom he said had “a clear eye on the vision of the Sports Hub for Singapore”, was a good fit as chairman of the Hub too. “He was instrumental in the successful and smooth conclusion to the Government’s takeover of the Sports Hub. And having also served as Co-Chair for the SportCares Advisory board, and Sport Singapore board member, I can think of no one who is more well placed to help drive our ambitions for the Sports Hub.”

Government takeover of Sports Hub

Friday’s announcement comes ahead of national agency Sport Singapore’s takeover of the Sports Hub on Dec 9.

Earlier this year, SportSG and private consortium SportsHub Pte Ltd (SHPL) agreed on the termination of their partnership that has seen the latter running the $1.33 billion venue since 2014. The June announcement marked the end of the public-private partnership which had originally been set to run from 2010 to 2035.

At a press conference on June 10, SportSG chairman Kon Yin Tong said taking back ownership and management of the Sports Hub would enable the 35-ha facility to be turned into the “heart of sports in Singapore”. The venue includes the 55,000-seater National Stadium, the OCBC Aquatic Centre, the multi-purpose indoor OCBC Arena and also the 41,000 sqm Kallang Wave Mall.

The government also wants to ride on synergies as the Kallang precinct is redeveloped. The Kallang Alive project, announced in 2019, will see six new developments in the area around the Hub. These include the Kallang Football Hub, Singapore Tennis Centre and a redevelopment of the Kallang Theatre.

Since it began operations in 2014, the Sports Hub has hosted several marquee events, but has also grappled with issues such the poor condition of its football pitch. But much of the scrutiny – and criticism – fell on its thin programming calendar.

In 2020, it was issued a fine over “unmet standards”, said then-Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community Baey Yam Keng.

While it had hosted 212 events the year before, Mr Baey added: “SHPL is required to meet a minimum number of sporting event days at the National Stadium and Singapore Indoor Stadium each year. Where they have not met the standards, they have been held accountable and financial penalties have been imposed.”

Singapore Sports HubsentosaCEO