02 February 18 The Straits Times by WANG MENG MENG
As far as opulence goes, Oon Jin Teik's office is austere, spartan even. There is a simple desk, as well as a computer, filing cabinets, a round table for meetings and a small television set.
His status as the chief executive officer of a facility that cost $1.33 billion to build could easily afford him more luxurious accoutrements, but he prefers to keep things simple.
The 54-year-old Singaporean was announced as the new head honcho of SportsHub Pte Ltd (SHPL) last week, earning a promotion from the chief operating officer role he has held since 2014.
"My office is 35ha," he told The Straits Times jokingly in an exclusive interview on Monday when asked about his modest office.
"Frankly, I use this (his office) almost as storage. I believe in practicality. I have held meetings for 10 people here before, just squeeze."
He has squeezed in lots of exercise since coming on board. His activity tracking app easily logs more than 10,000 steps a day and he has lost count of the pairs of shoes he has worn out in a typical 12-hour working day.
"I live here. My family comes here to look for me. No choice; this is the type of lifestyle that comes with the job," said the father of three sons.
"I go down to the different sites. If you don't see, you don't know. If you don't hear, you won't know the emotions on the ground."
The communication between the Government and our side has been very positive... From those discussions, we start to understand what will make things work.
OON JIN TEIK, newly appointed CEO of SportsHub Pte Ltd, on engaging the Government to make the public-private partnership model work.
COMMITTED TO QUALITY
Since the 2015 SEA Games, we've been hosting, hosting and hosting (events). Our aspirations are very high, we want to serve more Singaporeans and bring in more content.
OON, on filling the calendar with more marquee events.
The local sports fraternity greeted Oon's appointment positively. Terms like approachable, hands-on as well as "good mix of sports DNA and business acumen" have been used to describe the man who has unique insight into the public-private partnership (PPP) Sports Hub project, having been involved since its inception as the CEO of national sports agency Sport Singapore (2004-2010) before moving to the other side of the fence.
The Hub, which opened in June 2014, is a PPP project between the Government and SHPL, a consortium of four equity partners - Infrared Capital Partners, Dragages Singapore (design and building contractor), Cushman & Wakefield Facilities & Engineering (facility management partner) and Global Spectrum Asia (venue operations partner).
But the venture had a difficult birth and experienced teething problems. Construction delays as well as the National Stadium's well-publicised pitch problems saw the $800,000 hybrid surface replaced by an improved natural lay-and-play turf. SHPL later came under scrutiny for a perceived lack of marquee events.
Oon insists that the early problems are a thing of the past.
"All start-ups go through teething problems," said the former national swimmer, who is also the secretary-general of the Singapore Swimming Association.
"The main thing is to identify the root cause, realise why it is happening and spare no effort to fix it.
"That's what we did for the pitch problem. We were criticised openly but we fixed it. And we will continue to do that as no project is totally free of problems."
The Brigham Young University graduate with a bachelor's degree in chemical engineering and an MBA is confident of the viability and sustainability of the PPP model, explaining: "The communication between the Government and our side has been very positive.
"The mutual respect is there. We speak openly. It doesn't mean that we don't tell the Government where we think things are maybe not so good. From those discussions, we start to understand what will make things work.
"We are a start-up city. The complexity is there, the size and scope. The huge aspirational demands, the competition coming up from around the region.
"These things keep me awake. We have to be very clear about the dynamics and the dynamics are changing. That is the challenge."
Apart from community events attended by 415,000 people last year, Asean Basketball League side Singapore Slingers regularly pack the OCBC Arena while football's International Champions Cup, the HSBC Singapore Rugby 7s and Super Rugby are also slated for this year.
Music fans will be treated to Katy Perry, Bruno Mars, Jacky Cheung, Mayday and Harry Styles while comedian Russell Peters will perform at the Indoor Stadium on Feb 24.
But there remains a thirst for more A-list sports events, such as visits by top football teams or rugby powerhouses, the All Blacks.
Oon welcomes the challenge, saying: "Since the 2015 SEA Games, we've been hosting, hosting and hosting (events).
"Our aspirations are very high, we want to serve more Singaporeans and bring in more content.
"I don't think there is any stadium that comes close to our planned programmes. The filling up of the calendar of events is not a problem.
"It's self-inflicted pressure on ourselves when we say we want more vibrancy in our programmes. To do so, you need content of different types that is relevant to Singapore."
He is confident that he can lead the Sports Hub to greater heights.
He said: "We are here for a mission and the mission cannot fail, whether it is from the standpoint of delivering project objectives or delivering promises to Singaporeans or delivering financial results to shareholders. This is what we have signed up for."