By Gavin Tan
ActiveSG was launched by Sport Singapore, previously known as Singapore Sports Council, in April 2014. With the launch of ActiveSG the former Sports & Recreation Centres have also been renamed as ActiveSG sports centres, ActiveSG gyms and ActiveSG swimming complexes. Public users are now called the ActiveSG ‘members’.
At the launch, Minister Lawrence Wong also announced that as the national movement for sport, ActiveSG will allow every Singaporean to experience the joy of living better through sport.
However other than a malfunctioning online booking system, price increases and cosmetic name changes, ActiveSG has been an epic failure.
The online booking system is a nightmare. The system is unable to process refunds automatically, gives wrong information, creates double bookings and often hangs. ActiveSG claims that it is organising the Singapore National Games 2014 but ActiveSG ‘members’ are unable to use this system to register for the competitions or use the ActiveSG credits to pay for the registration. When the ActiveSG Jurong sports centre organised holiday sports programmes, ‘members’ are similarly not able to use the system or ActiveSG credits to register.
Every weekend, ActiveSG ‘members’ face difficulties access their ActiveSG app to enter and to exit the swimming complex and this created a long queue at the only available gantry. It is ironic that the membership gantry has a long queue whereas the ‘non-member gantries’ (there are two gantries) face no queue! When directed to the reception to resolve the glitch, there is yet another queue as there is only one staff manning the counter.
When the ‘members’ ask when the $100 credit promotion will end, when the credits will expire and how to withdraw as a member, the staff cannot reply and directed the 'member' to call Sport Singapore HQ. When the HQ staff pick up the call, it is forwarded to a ‘membership executive’. Nobody picks up the forwarded call. The staff at the swimming complex reception confided that even they themselves face the same problem as HQ seldom picks up the call, or would give half-baked replies. As a result the staff at the ground level are constantly being ‘left hung out to dry’.
‘Members’ now also have to pay more than double to use the same gym facilities for an annual membership. Bear in mind it is the same gym with broken equipment hasn't been repaired and common toilets that are not cleaned often and shared with ‘non-members’ (i.e. public).
In the studio, the affordable aerobics programs are now gradually replaced by fancy ‘Masala Bhangra’ and ‘Piloxing’. These new programs cost twice as much but has half the number of sessions. The instructors told the participants that they have no choice as ActiveSG HQ is ‘pushing for new programmes’. There is a 'take it or leave it' attitude. The instructors are also complaining that it is ‘messy at ActiveSG’. They do not know who to speak to and staff at HQ and the sports centres often give conflicting replies.
The instructors have submitted numerous proposals and requests to conduct programmes but nothing is done. There is supposed to be to be a new IT system that makes programme submission for instructors ‘seamless’ but so far there is no news when this system will be rolled out. More importantly, will the system give the same unresolved glitches similar to the 'members' booking system?
I brought my family to the Clementi swimming complex in August this year. There was some gym equipment beside the pool. When I asked the lifeguard if the user should wear shoes and bring a towel to use the gym equipment, and how to use the equipment, the lifeguard replied in mandarin that no one knows as 'management just dumped the gym equipment there’.
At the swimming pool on weekends, it is often congested with swimmers, children learning swimming and those playing by the pool edges. When swimmers ask why ActiveSG is giving $100 credits for more people to use the pool when it is already so crowded, the lifeguard gave a reply that makes no sense - ‘so that more Singaporeans will enjoy the benefits’.
ActiveSG is nothing more than a change of name, a gimmick. Besides changes in logo, the sport centres and swimming complexes remain the same, but program prices have increased. Sport Singapore has over-promised and under-delivered. Let us hope the failure will not be repeated when they organize the SEA Games 2015 next year.