Boots and all

Singapore Sevens has facilities Hong Kong could only dream of, but where are all the people?

Lion City event a let down a week after the spiritual home of the sport goes from strength to strength

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 18 April, 2017, 2:47pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 18 April, 2017, 3:17pm

To walk into Singapore’s National Stadium just a week after the Hong Kong Sevens is a strange thing.

It’s hard to believe two legs of the same series can have such a different feel. The Saturday morning at the Singapore Sevens is particularly underwhelming.

No South Stand means no one in early to get the best possible seat and, to be honest, hardly anyone in at all.

To the event’s credit, it built slowly during both days and by the time the tournament got to the business end, the atmosphere wasn’t too bad.

But when you take a look around at the amazing facilities on offer at the Singapore Sports Hub, it makes you wonder why the event isn’t doing better.

You leave the tournament thinking there is so much potential here, but even more work to do to maximise it.

The stadium is immense, the possibilities are endless for the vast concourse areas both inside and outside and there is even a lazy river right next to the entrance.

Can you imagine the shenanigans if Hong Kong Stadium had a lazy river?

But not in Singapore. Not a single person taking a dip on the Sunday morning, despite the sapping heat and humidity.

Due to the proximity of the events both in time and space, comparisons between Hong Kong and Singapore are inevitable.

While it is unfair to judge Singapore against Hong Kong with the event only in its second year back on the circuit after a 10-year hiatus, the reality is it lacks soul.

It fits in well with what you often hear about Singapore itself – sterile and conservative.

Organisers feel crowd numbers were hit by the Easter holiday, with many Singapore residents using the break as a chance to get away.

But upon chatting to fans, many are quick to point out that hosting events is not a strength of Singapore’s and some admit they only ever expect a half-baked set-up.

It was even suggested that promotion is kept to a minimum and the crowd capped at 30,000 – despite the 55,000 capacity – to ensure things don’t get too out of hand.

They needn’t have worried about capping the crowd – the stadium was nowhere near half-full.

Throughout most of the city, you wouldn’t have even known the event was on, the polar opposite to Hong Kong.

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And despite the fact the stadium has a roof, its sheer size means much of the noise gets lost because the fans are so spread out.

But it’s not all negative and you can see fans are eager to create a buzz inside the stadium.

Whether it’s singing, dancing or marching around the concourse to the beat of a drum – you can’t fault the enthusiasm.

If there was entertainment a little more engaging than dance cam or muscle cam, or the vocals of Singapore Idol finalist Leandra Rasiah, the crowd buy-in would go through the roof.

One fan points out it is on the right track, saying the music was better this year and, in jest, if they keep improving one thing each year, maybe they’ll have it right in 10 years.

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It is hard to tell whether Singapore wants its Sevens to be like Hong Kong’s or whether it is trying to create an identity of its own.

The ambitious official who said something along the lines of “we’re not like Hong Kong yet, but we’re not too far behind” sure made it sound like they are hoping to emulate Hong Kong.

That could be a mistake. Hong Kong is its own beast that has built momentum over four decades of history and tradition.

Singapore needs to find a way to instantly appeal to the masses. It’s not like they don’t have the space.

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The concourses are monstrous and could house any number of things, from live bands to boutique bars and party spaces.

The city itself has plenty in the way of trendy bars – perhaps a host of pop-ups could give the event its own feel.

While Hong Kong it ain’t, the potential is there for Singapore. But judging by the opinion of those in the crowd, the desire to make it a truly great event may not be.