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Dea(r)th of our Olympic Dream

Choo Zheng Xi -

The unhappiness of Singaporeans at everything YOG can really be narrowed down to this: the government’s unfailing belief that everything, even passion and enthusiasm, can be manufactured if you throw enough money at it.

Unfortunately for them, this is where they hit a brick wall. Was it Machiavelli or Lee Kuan Yew who said a good leader was one who ruled by fear and not by love?

Organizers of the games, in an effort to hammer our population into looking gracious, have reverted to form. Only the Brigadiers that staff the organizing committee, with the support of the Brigadiers in the Cabinet office could have concocted the $150 threat to motorists to give way to the YOG motorcade.

As the disjunct between the official line and popular sentiment continues to grow, an even more overtly fascistic tactic is being put into play: the mobilization of state propaganda to promote the event.

But how clumsy the Goebbles in our Ministries and what poor tools of journalists they have been given to work with! Even the adolescent athletes of visiting countries must have cringed at the paean to the YOG opening by sensitive nosed Rohit Brijnath, who wrote of how “history filled the nostrils” of participants on a day so beautiful it was blessed with the “smell of fresh beginnings and where a threatening rain miraculously stayed in the heavens”. (Click on picture, right)

Saner Singaporeans must have wondered what Mr Brijnath was putting up his nostrils.

Not to be outdone by the former USSR, the press even created Singapore’s very own Stakhanovite! 12 year old Low Wei Jie’s every action has been covered in painful detail since his fateful run after the Olympic torch. His act sent his MP Michael Palmer into such paroxysms of joy that he gave him free tickets to the games. Was Palmer rejoicing that finally the tide of public opinion would turn in favor of the YOG?

Unfortunately for him, it won’t.

The lack of enthusiasm for the YOG is a symptom of the illness of the systematic underfunding and neglect of local sports. The passion for sports that can only be shared by a society that lives and breathes and celebrates a sporting culture is non-existent in Singapore.

[Picture right, empty chairs during a performance]

The glaringly disused former National Stadium bears sullen witness to our government’s neglect, its non-existent replacement is the metaphorical missing limb in our national sporting culture.

But Argentinians would riot if Maracanna were closed for a day: why don’t Singaporeans seem to care?

More fundamental than underfunding, the spirit of materialism as the pinnacle value of Singapore Inc runs completely counter to the Olympic spirit. Our citius, altius, fortius are not those of the sportsman’s striving for personal fulfillment. Our citius, altius, fortius are the principles of management and the striving for revenue generation.

This “monetarist” approach has been transposed into our quest for Olympic gold: whole table tennis teams can be bought, much the way companies acquire competitors.

The taxi driver understands our national psyche in a way that our Ministers drawing millions could never. One told me: “Singaporeans only turn up to watch sports if there’s betting. You close Singapore Pools, see if people go watch S-League”.

By the PAP’s logic, which unfortunately has had free reign in shaping Singaporean behavior, sports for the purpose of human ennoblement is as useless as political plurality for the same: it doesn’t make money.

Any wonder then that Singaporeans are unhappy with the loss making YOG?

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Click here for photos of empty seats during YOG music performances.

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Andrew Loh

In the meantime, questions are being raised about the aim of the Singapore Youth Olympic Games.

The Ministry which oversees the YOG is the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports, headed by Minister Vivian Balakrishnan. [Picture right]

The British Broadcasting Corporation reported that “[Dr] Balakrishnan, the Minister of Community Development, Youth and Sports sees it as a chance to extend Singapore's image as an efficient globally connected city.”

On the ballooning budget of the YOG, which has increased four times, Dr Balakrishnan said: "But it is an amount that will give us value for money in terms of positioning ourselves, in terms of marketing ourselves, in terms of making sure we are on everyone's radar screen the next time they make an investment decision, the next time they decide to site an international or regional headquarters or the next time they decide to expand their business."

On the Singapore2010 official website, however, the purpose of the YOG seems to be different. The site says: “The Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games aims to inspire youth around the world to embrace, embody and express the Olympic values of Excellence, Friendship and Respect. It will create a lasting sports, culture and education legacy for Singapore and youths from around the world, as well as enhance and elevate the sporting culture locally and regionally."

Is there a disparity of purpose between the Ministry's and the YOG’s organizing committee's?

Weighing in on the issue, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said: "It's never been said that these games are there to make money. It's to bring the young people together… If the local organizing committee is suffering about that, then I'm very sorry."

Therein perhaps lies the problem – the government using the Games to promote Singapore as a business hub while the YOG itself is a sporting event which should indeed be promoting the spirit and values of sport - for its own sake.

Click here for BBC's interview with Vivian Balakrishnan.