A Sports City
By Kurt Ganapathy

Sports is never far from the hearts and minds of Singaporeans. With the sun always out, choices are plentiful.

Whether you are a participant or just an observer, Singapore offers the perfect weather for outdoor sports with a year-round tropical climate. Even if you aren't up for outdoor activities under the sun,there are many options for indoor sports from snooker to yoga and everything in between.

On a national level, the likes of Kimi Räikkönen and Lewis Hamilton burned rubber on Singapore’s city streets in September 2008, in the first-ever Formula 1 night race. In 2010, the island will play host to the best young athletes of the world for the inaugural Youth Olympic Games. The local sports scene certainly seems to be getting bigger and better.

Youth of the nation
Thousands of youths held their breath as Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), approached the podium in faraway Lausanne, Switzerland. Many more sat in front of their television sets and computers as he opened the envelope and announced that Singapore had been selected to host the first-ever Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in 2010.

Thousands of youths held their breath as Jacques Rogge, President of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), approached the podium in faraway Lausanne, Switzerland. Many more sat in front of their television sets and computers as he opened the envelope and announced that Singapore had been selected to host the first-ever Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in 2010.

It was a journey that began in 2001 when the IOC proposed the concept of an Olympic Games for youth between the ages of 14 and 18. In 2007, at the 119th IOC session held in Guatemala City, it was confirmed that a youth version of the Olympic Games would be created.

In November 2007, five candidate cities put forward proposals, namely Athens, Moscow, Bangkok, Turin and Singapore. In January 2008, the list was narrowed down to just Singapore and Moscow. It was a tough task for our island nation to compete against a city that had previously hosted countless international events, including the 1980 Summer Olympics. But with youth being the key element of the games, the vibrancy and diversity of Singapore shined through in the end.

With the Games slated for August 2010, preparations for the international event have already commenced. It will feature 26 different sports and 201 events, with an expected turnout of more than 3,500 young athletes. Besides including staples such as athletics and swimming, the Games will also showcase interesting new sports including BMX cycling, street basketball and beach wrestling.

For more information, visit www.singapore2010.sg

Diverse range of activities
Here's your guide to living the sporting lifestyle in Singapore!

Indoor sports
From the sedate to the strenuous, there are options galore for people of all ages. Warm up with a session of yoga at gyms and yoga centres such as True Yoga or Pure Yoga, followed by a relaxing hour of pilates. Classes are also available at many local community centres. Check the one closest to you for listings.

Gym rats can sign up with California Fitness, True Fitness or Fitness First. These gyms are located in accessible locations within the Central Business District and in most shopping areas. However, if forking out $600 a year is beyond your budget, there is an affordable alternative – neighbourhood ClubFITT gyms operated by the Singapore Sports Council (SSC) which charge only $2.50 per entry.

Other popular indoor sports include snooker, billiards and pool which are played mostly in parlours catered specifically for them. A number of pubs also sport pool tables. As the rules do not differ greatly, it is fairly easy to get the hang of each game.

Taufik Hidayat and Peter Gade wannabes can flex their badminton prowess on the courts at SSC's indoor sports halls and at most neighbourhood Community Centres. As booking fees are reasonably priced, advanced bookings are required as the courts are often snapped up quickly.

For more physically demanding sports, try Capoeira, an afro-Brazilian martial arts form which combines martial arts with acrobatics, dance and music. Classes are available at The Association of Capoeira Argola de Ouro and at various private gyms. Other popular martial arts include the Japanese sport of Kendo (Singapore Kendo Club), Wushu (Wufang) and Taekwon-Do (School of Taekwon-Do).

Fancy a sport that advocates honour, grace and chivalry? Try your hand at the age-old sport of fencing. At Z Fencing School, you will discover your inner swordsman as you parry, thrust and flick your way to victory.

Outdoor sports
Jogging in parks and national gardens is a popular leisure activity here. True to her nickname "The Garden City", Singapore boasts lush greenery which can be enjoyed everywhere, even in the most built-up urban areas. Sports stadiums around the island also tend to be crowded with joggers in the evenings.

For a taste of the salty sea breeze, panoramic coastline views and eye candy (in the form of taut and tanned bodies), head to East Coast Park on a weekend for some jogging, cycling or rollerblading. If you don't know how to rollerblade, classes are available. They cater to people from the ages of three to over 60. So being "too old" is not an excuse!

Tennis aficionados can play a game of tennis at SSC's tennis courts, or at Singapore's first indoor court at the Four Seasons Hotel.

Alternative sports like Ultimate Frisbee offer a great workout with fun for everyone, and can be played in any open field. For an introduction to the sport and to find some frisbee buddies, join Singapore Ultimate's pickup sessions at War Memorial Park, West Coast Park, and Sentosa on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays respectively.

Basketball is also a popular sport that can be played in outdoor courts at most Housing & Development Board estates. Singapore has her own Asian basketball team called Singapore Slingers, which participates in the Singapore Challenge Series featuring talents from the Philippines, China, Indonesia, India, Australia, and of course, Singapore.

Asia is a football mad continent, and Singapore is no exception. Besides watching the local league (S-League) which boasts local and foreign teams from Japan, China, and Korea, you and your buddies can head to the open fields at Farrer Park, Bishan Park, or anywhere with a patch of grass to show off your skills. A unique, fast-paced, indoor variety of football can be played at The Cage in Kallang. There's something for the ladies as well – Diva La Futbol, an annual football tournament for women, which was conceived by SMU Women Soccer Team and Heartware Network.

Singapore also regularly hosts international soccer matches involving world-class teams from Australia, China, Japan and Uruguay and even English Premiership teams such as Liverpool and Manchester United.

Club-Related sports
Rugby also enjoys a following here, with many recreational and country clubs organising and competing in rugby leagues. You'll be surprised at the level of competition, particularly at events like the Singapore Cricket Club Rugby 7s. Some of the most prominent clubs here include Blacks Rugby Football Club, The Wanderers Rugby Football Club and Bucks Rugby Club. Contact the Singapore Rugby Union if you want to join one of the many amateur clubs here.

Golf, the gentlemen's sport, is relatively affordable in Singapore, as compared to our Asian counterparts like Hong Kong and Dubai. A country club membership is a sure bet for a game on the greens. Alternatively, practice your swing at Singapore's three public courses, the Executive Golf Course (Upper Seletar Reservoir), Royal Tanglin Golf Course, and Marina Bay Golf Course, where a unique night-golfing experience is available.

GOLF COURSES/CLUBS

ADDRESS

CONTACT

Keppel Club

10 Bukit Chermin Road

6375 1818

Laguna National Golf & Country Club

11 Laguna Golf Green

6248 1777

Raffles Country Club

450 Jalan Ahmad Ibrahim

6861 7655

Seletar Country Club

101 Seletar Club Road

6486 0801

Sentosa Golf Club  

27 Bukit Manis Road

6275 0022

Singapore Island Country Club

180 Island Club Road
240 Sime Road

6450 1368
6461 7368

Tanah Merah Country Club

25 Changi Coast Road
Xilin Avenue

6545 1731
6542 4256

Clubs like SAFRA Club and Singapore Gun Club offer archery and shooting facilities. Strict gun control laws here mean that shooting can only be done at clubs affiliated with the Singapore Shooting Association.

For those keen on sailing, courses and facilities are available at these locations:

SAILING CLUBS

ADDRESS

CONTACT

National Sailing Centre

1500 East Coast Parkway

6444 4555

Changi Sailing Club

32 Netheravon Road

6545 2876

Pasir Ris Sea Sports Club (People's Association)

125 Elias Road

6582 4796

Raffles Marina

10 Tuas West Drive

6861 8000

Republic of Singapore Yacht Club

52 West Coast Ferry Road

6768 9288

SAF Yacht Club

43 Admiralty Rd West
110 Tanah Merah Coast Road

6758 3359
6758 3032

Water sports
Cable skiing is taking Singapore's water sports by storm. Ski 360° at East Coast Park uses an overhead cable instead of a speedboat to pull you across the water on a wakeboard or skis.

Wave riders will be able to indulge in their wakeboarding and water skiing kicks at the many schools and operators here.

For dragon boaters, Kallang River is the only spot for practice. Annual events such as the Singapore Dragon Boat Festival and Singapore River Regatta see teams rowing it out for honours. Previously dominated by students, dragon boating is emerging as a popular sport among the expatriate and local community. Alternatively, you can rent a kayak at MacRitchie Reservoir's Paddle Lodge and paddle through the water reserve's clear, cool waters.

Adventure sports
Weekend warriors here have found their niche in adventure sports like mountain biking, rock-climbing and motocross. Rather than jostle for space on the public roads, Pulau Ubin's jungle trails offer a stress-relieving avenue for mountain bikers. Just a short boat ride from Changi Village, Pulau Ubin offers you a chance to see what Singapore was like 50 years ago. You can bring your own bike or rent one for a reasonable fee at the shops located near the Ubin Jetty.

Speed cyclists will enjoy the route from Lower Peirce to Upper Peirce Reservoir, which is a windy, steep road (beware of traffic) that guarantees a good workout and an occasional monkey sighting.

Rock-climbing and abseiling enthusiasts can push their limits, cross boundaries and all that jazz at SAFRA Adventure Club in Yishun, Climb Adventure at West Coast Walk, and other indoor climbing centres. To take adventure to the extreme, sign up for Singapore Mountaineering Federation's ice-climbing course, which includes eight days of on-site training in China.

For the young and young-at-heart, Somerset Skate Park is the place to be for aggressive in-line skating, biking and skateboarding.

Endurance sports
Swim 1.5km, cycle 40km, then run 10km...all in the name of fun. Endurance sports like triathlons combine the thrills of three disciplines with stamina, determination and pure grit. Beginners can try the mini triathlon (swim 200m, cycle 10km, run 2km) at the OSIM Corporate Triathlon 2009 in October this year. Likewise, running enthusiasts can sign up for the Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon in December. Training programmes and camps are available for triathlon and marathon virgins as well. Meanwhile, the gruelling Vertical Marathon at Swissôtel the Stamford, Singapore, will have you sprint up 73 storeys (or 1,336 steps) of Southeast Asia’s tallest hotel in a test of supreme fitness.

Kampung football
Sometimes called “kampung-style football”, the S-League has had its share of criticism since its inception. It may not have the flair of the Primera Liga or the big names of the English Premier League, but the S-League has held its own for more than a decade.

The story began in December 1994 after the national team, affectionately known as the Lions, won the Malaysia Cup at the Shah Alam Stadium. The victory touched off a slew of grumbling in Malaysia over why it should continue to allow a foreign country to play in its domestic league. Things eventually came to a head, and the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) announced that it was pulling out of the Malaysia Cup the following year.

Feasibility studies and plans for a professional local league culminated in the official launch of the S-League by then Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong at the National Stadium.

The S-League currently comprises 12 teams: Albirex Niigata (S), Balestier Khalsa, Dalian Shide Siwu, Geylang United, Gombak United, Home United, SAF, Sengkang Punggol, Super Reds, Tampines Rovers, Woodlands Wellington and Young Lions.

Singaporeans may have mixed opinions about the quality of its local league, but they have never failed to rally around the national team. The Kallang Wave at the iconic National Stadium was a phenomenon cherished by many devoted fans during the heydays of the Malaysian Cup tournament.

Their loyalty was rewarded when the Lions won the Tiger Cup in 2004 at the National Stadium, which was packed to maximum capacity with fans decked out in crimson red, Singapore's national colour. The Lions successfully defended the title in 2006 when they won the ASEAN Football Federation Cup (the Tiger Cup's new name) and defeated long-time rivals Thailand.

One of the best ways to experience a country is to be at a football match, and you can be a part of it for an affordable price. Visit www.sleague.com for details.

Type of Sport          

Organisations/Clubs

Website

Yoga   

True Yoga

www.trueyoga.com.sg

Yoga

Pure Yoga

www.pure-yoga.com

Gym

California Fitness

www.californiafitness.com

Gym

True Fitness

www.truefitness.com.sg

Gym

Fitness First

www.fitnessfirst.com.sg

Gym

ClubFITT gyms

http://www.ssc.gov.sg/publish/Corporate/en/participation/hotspot/sports_facility/gymnasiums.html?CFC_cK=1216348597609

Capoeira

Capoeira Argola De Ouro

www.adoclife.com

Fencing

Z Fencing School

www.zfencing.com.sg

Inline Skating

Skate Sports

www.skatesports.com.sg

Soccer

The Cage @ Kallang

www.thecage.com.sg

Rugby

Singapore Rugby Union

www.sru.org.sg

Cable Ski/Wakeboarding

Ski 360°

www.ski360degree.com

Dragon Boat

Singapore Dragon Boat Association

www.sdba.org.sg

Canoe

Singapore Canoe Federation

www.scf.org.sg

Rock Climbing

SAFRA Adventure Club (Yishun)

www.safraadventureclub.sg

Rock Climbing

Climb Adventure (West Coast Walk)

www.climbadventure.com

Triathlon

OSIM Singapore International Triathlon

www.triathlonsingapore.org
www.corporatetrisg.com

Marathon

Standard Chartered Singapore Marathon

www.singaporemarathon.com

Vertical Marathon

Vertical Marathon at Swissotel

www.swissotelverticalmarathon.com

Formula One Grand Prix
Racing Into Town
It's a story that goes back 18 years. The story of Singapore's Formula 1 (F1) victory began in 1991, when hotelier Ong Beng Seng tried to secure the race for Singapore, but failed due to little support from the private and public sectors. Sixteen years later, with his three musketeers from Singapore GP Pte Ltd – Hard Rock Café president Colin Syn, Komoco Motors managing director Teo Hock Seng, Lushington Entertainments director Michael Roche – Ong sealed the five-year deal for Singapore.

A one-year courtship with F1 head honcho Bernie Ecclestone started when Syn heard that the Singapore Tourism Board (STB) was keen on bringing in the race. Together with various government departments such as STB, Land Transport Authority (LTA), Ministry of Trade and Industry (MTI), and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), the group worked on a myriad of issues ranging from race logistics to government funding. The cost of hosting the race came up to about $150 million, of which 60% was covered by the government. Feasibility studies for a street race were conducted during the negotiations, and F1 driver Aussie Mark Webber also travelled to Singapore for a test drive.

A year of tough negotiations culminated in a meeting in London involving Ecclestone, Syn and MTI representatives, three weeks before the deal was signed. Singapore is the third country to host a street race, after Monaco and Valencia, and the first to have a night race.

Clinching the deal was just the start of a long journey of preparations for the F1 race. Singaporeans were elated to find out that the biggest race on earth was coming to our shores. Legions of F1 fans spent their time in Singapore partying, celebrating and just soaking in the revelry that came with such a high-octane sports event.

For pictures of the event, visit http://www.formula1.com/gallery/race/2008/801.