Sunday, 1 October 2023

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Where are we headed as our sports performances dip

by Jose Raymond

Congratulations to all of Singapore’s medallists at the recently concluded Asian Games in Jakarta. Despite the many obstacles and systemic road humps put in your way, you have helped keep the national flag flying high at the quadrennial Asiad.

While the chef de mission Lee Wung Yew has hailed the overall performance and called it a “very good outing”, let’s get back to reality and crunch the data and the statistics.

Singapore finished in 18th place in the overall medal standings at the Asian Games in Jakarta.

Singapore ended up with four golds, four silvers and 14 bronze medals from nine sports, which is a dip from 2014. One of these gold medals came from contract bridge, which is not an Olympic sport.

Based on medal standings, this is Singapore’s worst showing in the final medal tally at the Asian Games in 20 years since 1998, when we finished in 17th spot.

In 1994 in Hiroshima, Singapore finished in 20th spot in the standings. (see medal standings from 2002 onwards below)

A look at the Commonwealth Games 2018 results also indicate a dip in performances, as Singapore gathered the least number of medals in 20 years since the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.

In 2008, the Government released the Sporting Culture Committee Report, which came with a set of targets and a list of 23 recommendations and more importantly, a set of targets for Sporting Singapore.

Among these targets were for Singapore to maintain our position among the top 10 sporting nation in Asia. While this is vague, it can be construed that the Asian Games is a fair gauge as it is a continental wide competition for Asia.

Other targets set were for spectatorship to be built up at live sporting events and to attract more volunteers into sports, attain 66% sports participation by 2015 and have the sports sector contribute $2 billion to the Gross Domestic Product by 2015.

These are some points to ponder.

  1. It is quite clear from the 2008 Sporting Culture Committee Report that the Government has set itself targets for sports performance. However, there has been a steady dip in performance at the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games and our final position in the medal standings at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta has been Singapore’s worst performance in 20 years. What has caused this dip, and what is being done to address the slide.
  2. The 2008 Sporting Culture Committee report set a target of being a top 10 Asian nation in sports. While it does not state that being a top 10 Asian nation equates to performance at the Asian Games, is there any other measure which the Government uses to gauge its performance over time, vis a vis the target put forward through the Sporting Culture Committee Report? What is the gauge of its performance at the continental level in keeping with the target set at the 208 Sporting Culture Committee Report?
  3. Also, if the Sporting Culture Committee report states that Singapore sets to be a top 10 nation in Asia, why are our political appointees coy about setting performance targets for our contingent? Shouldn’t we be aiming high and shouldn’t motivation come from the top? Has there been a deviation the strategy compared to what was presented to the public in 2008?
  4. If there is indeed a shift in the strategy, then what is the focus of the government when it comes to public policy involving high performance sports and its subsequent deliverables as a result of our public spending towards the sports sector?

The overall standings are an indication that Singapore is slipping behind in our sporting standards.

We need to address what’s causing the slide.

Is the Sporting Culture Committee Report from 2008 still relevant? If not, what is the gauge for sporting excellence, especially since millions are being spent on a Singapore Sports Institute and high-performance management.

Are there structural impediments for our athletes and National Sports Associations which are causing the dip or have we been left behind in our pursuits due to city state pressures where sports does not seem to feature high on the Government’s agenda?

From a granular perspective, when did our National Sports Associations receive confirmation of their funding and subsequent disbursements to prepare for the Asian Games 2018?

For a country which strives to be number one in as many aspects as possible, it is unbecoming that we do not see the elephant in the room in that our overall sports performance is headed south.

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