Sports Hub CEO Lionel Yeo can help lift nation’s spirit
SHPL's new CEO could give S'pore a timely boost with football and schools' action
There is red and white tape and snaking barriers ringing many areas around the precinct to warn off visitors, and little booths positioned in strategic locations where security personnel are stationed to inform unknowing souls of the out-of-bounds spaces.
I am sure Lionel Yeo would never have thought he would be the chief executive of an enterprise where many of its venues would be lifeless, shut and unwelcome to athletes, entertainers and visitors.
Yeo and his team at the Sports Hub knew how important it was to answer the call and convert the National Stadium and the OCBC Arena into temporary housing facilities for migrant workers.
He is proud of the Hub's role in the national effort against Covid-19, and rightfully so.
When I spoke to him last week, I couldn't shake off the feeling that the new chief executive officer (CEO) of Sports Hub Pte Ltd could also be one of the stewards who can help return a spring in the step of this country.
While the virus continues to cause strife around the world, Singapore, in all likelihood, will not see the National Stadium heave in a swathe of red with Liverpool on stage next year, and a rugby collision at the 55,000-seater arena between the All Blacks and Wallabies seems like the proverbial million miles away right now.
Beyonce, Lady Gaga and The Rolling Stones will not appear at the Hub and make us swoon, sing and dance.
When lives and livelihoods are at stake, a 100m contest at the stadium, a table tennis duel or a basketball match in the arena, a swimming competition at the OCBC Aquatic Centre and a badminton contest at the Indoor Stadium is hardly in the top bracket of any to-do list.
But this country could do with a pick-me-up and Yeo, 47, did reveal that a number of international hirers are already in touch with the consortium about bringing events to the venue next year.
While the pandemic continues to rear its head, the prospects are not great, but he said his team are looking at implementing unique safety measures to facilitate fan turnout if given the green light to host events.
I suggested a Causeway football derby could be the easiest to pull off in the near term and provide a welcome fillip, and he did not wave it off.
I hope the safety measures are effective and he makes it happen.
The pandemic has turned numerous sports calendars blank around the world, and the Sports Hub lost this year's International Champions Cup (ICC) event that would have featured English champions Liverpool, the Rugby Sevens World Series and the Swimming World Cup.
Yeo, officially appointed CEO of Sports Hub Pte Ltd in February - the fourth permanent chief executive since the official opening of the $1.33-billion Hub in 2015 - is planning for 2021 to be busier than this year.
He mentioned a Sports Hub Sports Series, only willing to add that it involved the country's national sports associations.
He suggested there would be space for more local content.
I hope the ideas pack a punch and he pulls it off.
And in the immediate aftermath of the pandemic, perhaps Yeo and his team could also put on the first big showpiece in the country that stirs an exciting ruckus - a weekend at the Sports Hub where Singapore's schools do battle with one another in football, swimming, track and field, basketball, badminton, tennis and a whole host of other disciplines.
A sports festival if you like, where the country's young enthusiasts, some of them surely future national stars, show off their athletic skills at venues where Kobe Bryant, Neymar, Serena Williams, Paul Pogba, Joseph Schooling, Sonny Bill Williams, Lin Dan and Katinka Hosszu have lit up.
A two-day event where the Hub works with various stakeholders to ferry school athletes, teachers, parents and supporters from all over the island and turn the 35-hectare facility into a place of throbbing energy, fun, sweat, excitement, competition and screaming noise.
As Singapore Tourism Board chief from 2012 to 2018, Yeo helped the country win bids to host the BNP Paribas Women's Tennis Association Finals, the Singapore Rugby Sevens and football's ICC.
He understands why the Singapore Formula 1 race is a world-renowned event.
He will know what it takes to bring elite world events to our shores in a post-Covid world.
But this virus has inadvertently also given him a chance to rustle up the Singapore spirit.
The country could do with a shot in the arm and I hope he can be one of those who delivers.