Athletes and team officials coming for the inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in 2010 will now be staying at the Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
In a surprise announcement yesterday, YOG organisers said the International Olympic Committee (IOC) has approved a proposal to site the Youth Olympic Village at NTU's existing campus off Jalan Bahar.
It was originally planned to be at the upcoming $500-million, 19ha University Town in Clementi.
The spiralling cost of building materials globally - market experts said prices have risen up to 35 per cent in the last year - and high fuel prices were cited for the switch.
'We decided to take the more prudent approach of having the Village at NTU,' said Mr Ng Ser Miang, chairman of the Singapore YOG Organising Committee.
'Also, the YOG's concept is that the IOC wants host cities to use existing facilities.'
The National Institute of Education, located within NTU, will be the Village's central square. Dining, retail, culture and education services will be located there.
Organisers added that it was too early to say how much money would be saved with the change, but it is estimated to be at least a six-figure sum.
Sticking to the plan of accelerating the University Town's construction to get it ready by February 2010 would mean 'significant' increase in costs, said its developer, the National University of Singapore (NUS).
Fortunately, the 200ha NTU campus had been identified as an alternative venue when Singapore submitted its bid to host the multi-sports event last October.
This was partly due to initial worries that the University Town would not be completed in time for the event in August 2010.
While the 3,500 or so foreign athletes and 900 officials will not get to enjoy the spanking new Town, NTU students and Jurong residents are set to benefit.
Various campuses and neighbourhood sports facilities will be spruced up to allow YOG athletes to train there, said organisers.
For instance, NTU's running track and swimming pool will almost certainly be refurbished, according to Youth Olympic Village director Eric Tan.
'But we won't just depend on NTU's facilities,' he said. 'We are eyeing some schools within a 10-minute bus ride and seeing if their facilities can be upgraded.
Just two of the nine NTU residential halls set aside to house about 5,200 people are air-conditioned. Organisers are considering installing air-cons for the rest and adding new furnishings in bedrooms.
This will add to the US$75 million (S$103 million) already set aside for the Games.
There are other pros and cons to the change in venues, said Mr Tan. 'While NTU will be farther from town, its facilities are more spread out compared to NUS,' he said.
Staying at NTU also means most athletes will have to spend an extra 10 minutes or so on the road when travelling to competition venues around the island.
With the exception of BMX and mountain biking (Tampines) and sailing (East Coast), the other 24 sports will be staged within a half-hour's drive from the Village.
Apart from upgrading works, NTU said it may postpone the start of the 2010/2011 academic year by about two weeks.
Sports-loving NTU undergraduates cheered the news. Mr Henry Seah, 21, a second-year business student and former national youth table tennis player, said: 'I hope we can mingle with some of the YOG athletes. I'll try to volunteer and help out if I can.'