SINGAPORE – How long more Singaporeans have to wait before being able to pack the National Stadium again depends on the pace of scientific development and state of international cooperation, as the world comes to terms with the coronavirus pandemic.

And a “long ride” could be in the offing if the two “critical uncertainties” move in the wrong way, Singapore Sports Hub chief executive officer Lionel Yeo said on Monday (Sept 14).

He made the comments during a panel discussion at the All That Matters business festival, on the rebirth of the live sports and entertainment industry.

When asked when he envisioned the 55,000-capacity National Stadium being full again, he said: “You need both ‘critical uncertainties’ to be working in the same direction, and in the right direction, before we can get back to 55,000 at the National Stadium.

“So I’m watching that very closely. One without the other doesn’t quite work.

“You (would) get a middling scenario, where you muddle through, get stops and starts, some economies will open and then close down again.

“And obviously when you get those two critical uncertainties going in the wrong direction, then hang on, it’s going to be a long ride.”

Mr Yeo, 47, who was chief of the Singapore Tourism Board from 2012 to 2018, in February became the fourth man to helm the Sports Hub after Frenchman Philippe Collin-Delavaud (March 2011-December 2015), and Singaporeans Manu Sawhney (October 2015-May 2017) and Oon Jin Teik (January 2018-April 2019).

He added that the future of live sports and entertainment events at the Sports Hub is one that the $1.33 billion facility needs to “co-create” together with the live events industry and the government.

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Noting that there have been “a lot of behind-the-scenes discussions” on a safe return to live sports and entertainment, Mr Yeo said: “There are dozens of reopening plans and templates that have been drawn up, discussed, debated.

“We have table-top exercises to talk through (them)… and it’s all about: Is this plan good enough? Will it inspire confidence in the public?

“Will it be good enough to convince our health officials that we will be able to respond should there be an outbreak, for example, where we can do contact tracing with a reasonably-sized number of people?”

He also said that one silver lining to how the Covid-19 outbreak disrupted live events is that it has made event organisers “alive” to digital engagement.

“We will then emerge from this pandemic with a much better playbook for engagement, and how we create meaningful experiences,” he said.

Echoing Yeo’s view, Sport Singapore chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin said this innovation and shift toward digital engagement is part of a “resiliency” that needs to take root in the sports industry.

Speaking in a separate All That Matters panel discussion that took place earlier, Mr Lim said: “Let’s start to engender conversations about greater creativity and innovation in this space, and then pretty soon the dynamics between the different stakeholders in the industry will play out.

“But I’m optimistic that, sport being what it is, we’ll think about this for the longer term in terms of how we build greater resiliency in the industry.

“Because if this pandemic is anything to go by, and all the commentators suggest that this is going to (repeatedly) come and go, we have to make our shifts.”

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