By Thomas Luff - 3 June 2009
The 2010 Summer Youth Olympic Games in Singapore will be held for two weeks in August 2010 and will help potentially showcase some great new athletes for the coming decade.
The competitors, who are expected to number around 3,600, will be aged from 14 to 18 and will compete in 26 sports at various facilities dotted around the island.
These sites range from popular tourist hotspots such as Orchard Road and Marina Bay, to the local heartlands of Toa Payoh and Tampines.
Interestingly being an island of near constant regeneration none of the facilities in use are being purpose built for the Games. This is in accordance with the requirement of the bidding cities that they shouldn’t have to build any major venues for the games. However, when you consider that Singapore already has stadia that have played host to teams such as Manchester United and Liverpool, as well as pop stars including Mariah Carey and Elton John, it’s pretty apparent that new venues aren’t needed anyway.
Along with existing top class sporting facilities Singapore also has one of the world’s best transport systems: the MRT, an above ground/ underground rail service, which is currently undergoing a massive expansion. This means spectators to the Games should have no problems getting around, vital when up to 500,000 people will watch the event. Up 15,000 of these will have travelled specifically to the island to watch the Games.
As a former resident of Singapore I feel this is a fantastic honour for the country and will help to position local athletes into the nation’s minds. In an island obsessed with the Premier League, local sports teams really suffer. Sitting on the terraces watching the football team next to my university, the spectators were either the very old, "uncles" as they are affectionately known or the very young.
The middle more lucrative age group wasn’t there and this is a big problem for Singapore’s sporting system.
Without the money and support from this demographic they cannot fund high quality talent or facilities. Proof being that in 2007 five football academies closed, citing as one of the main reasons a lack of funding. This saw the number of teenagers training on the island drop from 400 to 150 and this lack of nurturing toward young talent had often been considered a problem.
Despite this, it isn’t right for me to paint a picture of total sporting doom and gloom in contemporary Singapore. In response to the decline in high quality youth training, the national sporting associations and the nation’s schools signed a memorandum of understanding to help nurture young talent. This understanding has been massively aided by a pledge from the government this year of S$15million (£6.3million) toward youth sport development initiatives leading up to the Games.
This investment and others across the years are gradually beginning to pay off for the nation, both internationally with F1 and the International Olympic Committee (IOC) choosing to hold events on the island, and locally. This follows the establishment of a national sporting school in 2004 that has begun producing some outstanding young athletes including Isabelle Li, the under-15 South East Asia champion in both doubles and singles table tennis, Cheryl Lim, silver medallist at the Asian Schools Fencing Championship and Imran Khan, son of Hamid Khan, a former Olympic competitor and top 50 ranked badminton player. All them will be available for the Games and will undoubtedly want to do well. The pressure will certainly be on for them to do so.
Aside from good sporting and economic promotion Singapore also stands to benefit culturally from these Games. Yes, Singaporeans are very competitive but they also are extremely socially orientated.
This means that whether the athletes perform well or not, many on the island feel that success shouldn’t be measured in medals. This mirrors the ideal Jacques Rogge, the President of of the IOC, laid out in his speech on awarding the Games: “These Games are not all about competition. They will also be the platform through which youngsters will learn about the Olympic values and the benefits of sport, and will share their experiences with others around the globe.”
I feel this attitude of sharing and learning seems very fitting for a nation that is gradually forcing its way into the worlds sporting spotlight and if anything the biggest hope for these Games should be to leave a lasting legacy from which to continue building.
Thomas Luff is a former student of Nangyang Technological University in Singapore
A lovely piece. Nice to see that you are doing stuff on the Youth
Olympics. I hope that there will be plenty more of these to come.
By Singapore Sports Fan
8 June 2009 at 12:43pm