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Staging adrenalin-pumping shows

CLARISSA TAN highlights some of the high-profile sporting events in the Marina Bay area, including next year’s Singapore Grand Prix

SLEEK machines zoom under flyovers and streak past the towers of Suntec City, the Padang, the Old Supreme Court and the Esplanade theatres before screeching down the pit straight, where spectators emit a thunderous roar.

This will be the scene in September next year when the Singapore Grand Prix – the world’s first night Formula One race – takes to the city’s streets.

The race, which will course through the centre of the new downtown at Marina Bay, is set to be ‘the social highlight of the year’, says Jonathan Hallett, media and communications director of promoter Singapore GP. ‘Such a world-class event in the heart of a business district, with prime shopping centres and hotels within walking distance, will give a unique snapshot of Singapore.’

The GP is one of many high-profile, adrenalin-pumping sporting events in the Marina Bay area.

On Dec 2 this year about 40,000 runners will take part in the annual Standard Chartered Marathon – six times more competitors than in 2002. The full-marathon route includes the Singapore River,

Marina South, the Central Business District and the Old Supreme Court and City Hall.

‘The marathon has grown phenomenally,’ says Yazed Osman, event director for the Singapore Sports Council. ‘Not just in terms of overall participation, but participation among women and international runners.’

WaterFest Singapore, which takes place in August and September, attracted 18,000 visitors on its inaugural weekend at Marina Bay’s floating platform. ‘The central location and easy accessibility made it a great location to kick off the WaterFest,’ says Mr Yazed. ‘We can showcase many watersports against our beautiful city skyline.’

The six-week festival includes international competitions such as the Aviva Ironman triathlon and Wakeboard World Cup, as well as offbeat events such as Beach Ultimate Frisbee Hat Tournament.

Last weekend, hundreds of people ran up the 73 storeys of Swissotel The Stamford, the tallest hotel in Southeast Asia, in this year’s Vertical Marathon. The men’s overall winner, Zakayo Mwai Nderi, climbed the 1,336 steps in seven minutes and three seconds.

The Vertical Marathon has been held since 1987 but will carry even more cachet as the Marina Bay area is developed.

The entire development, over some 360 hectares, will contain the Marina Bay financial centre, upmarket housing, shopping outlets and public waterfront areas and parks.

It will also be home to some of Singapore’s icons – Esplanade Theatres on the Bay, the Flyer, the Double Helix Bridge and the Marina Bay Sands integrated resort. The area, which includes the Marina Bay Residences and the newer Marina Bay Suites, will be a hive of activity.

Besides The Esplanade theatres, which have been staging arts performances for five years, the rest of the structures should be completed by end-2010.

The Singapore Flyer, a giant ferris wheel that will provide spectacular views of Marina Bay, is scheduled to start operating early next year.

All of these attractions and events will bring in visitors. ‘The Formula One GP will give a strong boost to tourism,’ says Lawrence Leong, director of the project for the Singapore Tourism Board. ‘It is expected to generate incremental tourism receipts of about $100 million a year. Hotels, night spots, restaurants, retailers, airlines, taxi drivers and many other groups will benefit.’

About 80,000 spectators are expected for the GP, of whom 30-40 per cent will be foreign visitors. ‘There will be broader economic spin-offs as well,’ says Mr Leong. ‘Our private wealth management industry, strong contingent of multinational and local companies and diverse retail and entertainment establishments can all take advantage of the event to derive benefits for their clients and their business.’

One factor that could help put Singapore on the sports and entertainment map is the novelty aspect of some of the events. The Vertical Marathon, for instance, not only involves racing up one of the world’s tallest hotels, the winners also get to represent Swissotel in New York’s prestigious Empire State Run-Up.

Perhaps not so much novel as focused, last month’s Great Eastern Women’s Race, with five kilometre and 10km routes through Marina Bay, was open only to women.

The Vertical Marathon and Great Eastern race are part of a series of events under the banner of the Marina Bay Urban Challenge, organised by Enterprise Sports Group (ESG).

ESG is now planning a race for children called the Kids’ Dash, says head of marketing and client services Adeline See. ‘We hope to attract some 3,000 children to take part in the inaugural run covering distances from 50 metres to three kilometres.’

But without doubt, the Formula One GP will be Singapore’s single biggest tourist draw.

‘This new venue on the streets of Singapore will likely set a new standard,’ says Andy Fuchs, general manager of marketing, communications and business development for Panasonic Toyota Racing.

And Heikki Kovalainen, a driver for the ING Renault Formula One team, says: ‘The race in Singapore looks pretty exciting owing to the fact that they plan to hold it by night. It will be quite exciting for us at the wheel – and a good opportunity to offer a fantastic show.’


Source: Business Times 15 Nov 07

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