In the past decade, Singapore has played host to many high-profile events such as the annual Formula 1 Singapore Airlines Singapore Grand Prix, the BNP Paribas Women's Tennis Association Finals Singapore, as well as the World Rugby Sevens series in 2016.
In 2009 alone, Singapore held over 700 local and international sporting events across the city and was named No.2 Ultimate Sports City at the biennial Sport Accord Convention in April 2010. The stakes are high each time we host a large-scale event, but we have managed to pull off every event with finesse.
Successful hosting of large-scale events has put Singapore on the world map and contributed to increased tourism revenue. As a PwC report shows, sports revenues globally have been on an upward path through to 20151. Asia Pacific's sports industry revenue was projected to reach US$27.5 billion in the same year, and in Singapore the sports industry was projected to contribute S$2 billion to GDP by 2015, along with the goal of employing 20,000 people in sports-related jobs.
While the market size has shown much potential for growth, hosting a large-scale event brings its own set of challenges. Holding an event and having a poor showing can have serious negative repercussions on our reputation – participants who speak negatively of the event experience can, at best, hurt future tourism and cause financial strain.
Growing our capabilities as a Nation: investment in infrastructure
Cities and countries that bid to host large-scale events know that the four pillars of hosting these large events are concentrated around what we call the ‘Event Experience’. Designing an excellent event experience is an uphill task, especially so for a small city-state like ours.
Despite our relative small land size, Singapore housed over 5,000 athletes and officials in 10 halls at the designated Youth Olympic Village (YOV) at Nanyang Technological University during the 2010 Youth Olympic Games.
The YOV occupied 55 hectares (about 80 football fields) and there were refurbishment works at the halls including painting; installation of air-conditioners; upgrading of rooms, furnishings, toilets, and common areas; and landscaping.
Our state-of-the-art Sports Hub has also helped placed Singapore on the international map for sports – a base for elite athletes and sporting events and will serve as the centrepiece of Singapore’s development as a regional hub for sports business and events.
Infrastructure developments like these have attracted sports management companies such as World Sport Group to set up their global headquarters in Singapore.
Nurturing industry-ready talent
However, to really set ourselves apart from our neighbours and build our capabilities as a host nation, there is an increased importance to develop professionals who are able to manage and execute events that are also important to the growth of this economy – whether directly or indirectly.
There is a demand for courses and programmes that can help develop talent for the provision of end-to-end services catered to this burgeoning industry. Specialised education qualifications in festivals and events management are now available in Singapore, for aspiring talents who are looking to jumpstart their career in this sector.
To help athletes train and prepare themselves to compete at high-profile sporting events, for example, coaches and trainers need to be steeped in the science of physical and sport sciences. Edinburgh-Napier University UK is the first in Singapore to offer students a degree in sports and exercise science, to groom talent in physiology, biomechanics, and sports psychology, and develop scientists in the field who can help athletes with everything from coaching to injury rehabilitation.
This same demand for sports-related training services has also attracted the Manchester United Soccer School (MUSS) to establish its South-East Asian Hub in Singapore. Youths from as far as South Korea and Japan participate in the football clinics and tournaments organised by MUSS SEA.
Off the track and pitch, vocationally relevant courses have to evolve to equip aspiring professionals in the service industry with effective festival and event management so that practical skills can be applied to people and resource management – which contribute largely to the success of an event.
Continued coordination between stakeholders
To capitalise on this growing market, we must ensure that Singapore remains a natural draw for companies and large-scale events with a consistent supply of quality talent by maintaining close collaborations with education partners on various fronts.
The growing sector and access to education programs of this nature will mean that companies have to reorganise themselves, engage with talent early, to meet both the challenges of the new competitive global economy and the needs of the future workforce. Some of these industry collaboration avenues can come in the form of career fairs, networking events, and industry visits for students.
Establishing channels for the development of these strong relationships with the different stakeholders is of paramount importance. The constantly changing workplace will mean that the talent-hiring process should start early, and harnessing the expertise of different stakeholders and partners who have experience in organising and coordinating large-scale events is crucial.
As events scale up, the transference of skills between different stakeholders becomes very important and we, as a country, need to learn from them in order to grow.
Countries that recognise the power and importance of partnerships between businesses and educational institutions that offer forward-thinking programs will stand a greater chance in grooming industry-ready talents to fuel their evolution up the value chain as a hub for international sporting events.
The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Singapore Business Review. The author was not remunerated for this article.
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Marcus Loh is Director, Asia Pacific Communication for global visual analytics firm Tableau Software. He was named a Linkedin Power Profile and was listed in Singapore Business Review’s top 10 “Notable Chief Marketing Officers under 40”. Marcus holds an M.S from Michael Smurfit Graduate Business School and won a scholarship for his second master’s degree from the Singapore Management University and Università della Svizzera italiana. He serves on various advisory capacities for academia and industry including, the Institute of Public Relations of Singapore, CMO Council, UOB-SMU Asian Enterprise Institute, Asia Enterprise Brand Awards, to name a few.