The Chiam See Tong Sports Fund yesterday (22 Aug) has successfully raised over S$160,000 through its Gala Dinner at the Marriott Tang Plaza in an effort to provide financial support to under-resourced Singaporean athletes.
The sports fund was set up in the name of the veteran opposition politician, who served as Singapore’s longest-serving opposition MP in Potong Pasir SMC for 1984 to 2011.
Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong attended the Gala Dinner as the Guest of Honour, alongside Senior Minister of State for Health and Law Edwin Tong, Nominated MP Yip Pin Xiu, corporate leaders and renowned faces from Singapore’s sports fraternity. Goh donated an autographed golf club of his, which went on auction for S$5,000.
Goh highlighted how Chiam raised the issue of the lack of financial support for Singaporean athletes during the Budget debate in 1989.
Chiam said during the debate that while the Government announced its aim to promote sports, its budget allocations did not appear to reflect that, as “most of the money were given for capital development” such as the following:
- S$12.37mil given to Singapore Sports Council (SSC) to take over canteens, cafeterias of sports complexes from the HDB;
- An additional S$2.37mil in grant, in relation to a large grant given to the SSC for “additional recurrent expenditure on maintenance of new sports facilities”, and;
- A S$2.05mil loan to the SSC to carry out major repairs to the National Stadium.
“There was no mention of allocation of funds to sportsmen and their coaches,” Chiam said, adding that if Singapore wishes to “shine” on an international level, the government must provide “real support” to Singaporean athletes.
“[S]ad to say, our sports level as far as the international standard is concerned, is at the kampong level. I think we have to do something to build up one or two champions and that will give inspiration to other sportsmen,” he added.
Chiam also underlined the importance of sports beyond maintaining good health, as he said that sports “builds up courage, character of a person, disciplines him, teaches him fair play, his ability to take defeat and get him into the right spirit of cooperation with others”, in addition to fostering social cohesion among Singaporeans.
“[I]f people are really interested in sports, whether he is a company director or he is a labourer, they will get together for a common pursuit,” he said.
Echoing Chiam’s sentiments in the 1989 Budget debate, Goh said on Thu: “Sports can also help build character, discipline and resilience.”
“The Chiam See Tong Sports Fund is doing precisely that by helping children and youths from disadvantaged backgrounds reach their sporting dreams,” he added.
Goh also cited the peak of Singapore’s achievement in the Malaysia Cup in the 1970s and Joseph Schooling’s gold medal for the Republic in swimming at the Olympics three years ago as tangible examples of Singapore’s capacity to excel in the international sports arena.
SPP member and former Singapore Sports Hub senior director in corporate communications Jose Raymond said that the Chiam See Tong Fund’s emphasis “has to be plugging gaps in the arena of sports which will reduce or eradicate the instances and probability of inequality in sports”.
“Together we can do our part to change a life or two by having many hands-on-deck approach, to give our young athletes a boost in life,” he said.
The Chiam See Tong Sports Fund has assisted more than 30 athletes since its inception in 2017, including modern pentathlete Kok Kiat Xuan, national powerlifters Matthew Yap, Matthias Yap and sailor Olivia Chen.
Raymond, a founding member of the sports fund and the chairman of the gala dinner’s organising committee, told TOC today (23 Aug) that while the foundation managed to raise almost S$170,000 at the gala dinner yesterday (22 Aug), the amount needed to “effectively run multiple programmes” is estimated to be around S$500,000-S$900,000 annually.
Athletes present at the Gala Dinner yesterday included five-time Southeast Asian Games gold medallist Choo Choon Seng, captain of the gold medallist 1993 Southeast Asian Games women’s hockey team Melanie Martens, and last year’s Asian Games silver medalist in jujitsu Constance Lien.
Previously, world renowned rugby referee Nigel Owens was the Guest of Honour at the fund’s first gala dinner in 2017.