Affairs, Opinion

Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games: Singapore, What Do You Want?

Empty Celebrations
“An empty Celebration corner”
Image credit: Yawning Bread

Another one armed post, because my left arm is still in a cast, but also because I feel that this is an opinion I want to share, hopefully to offer a different point of view, and perhaps one that’s positive as well.

I’m going to be talking about the Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games, so I’d better offer a full disclosure and disclaimer before we carry on:

“I am one of the trainers conducting the Digital Media Workshop for the athletes and coaches as part of the Culture and Education Programme (CEP), and I enter the Youth Olympic Village and interact with athletes, coaches, volunteers and people part of the organising committee on a daily basis. These opinions expressed, are my own, and are by no means affiliated to my employers or the organising committee, and based solely on my personal experience and account. My identity is fully public, and I am currently unaware of any communications directives, but I am taking a risk on my personal reputation, because I believe my opinion matters to the public discourse.”

I think there are many things to find inconvenient or uncomfortable about the Youth Olympic Games. It inconveniences us, our students are being forced to volunteer, crap food gets served, the budget blew itself by three times, we have to give way to the transport buses, there is little International coverage about the games, there is the unbalanced reporting done by our own mainstream press. Yes, these are all facts reported by alternative media in Singapore, and it really shows that the games are not as perfect as you might believe (but then again, nothing is), and definitely reasons for any concerned citizen to voice out. I myself as a contributing member of society, and the public, will of course hold the relevant parties to task by asking questions, but for the next 12 days, maybe I will just cool off.

Chinese Weightlifter
Image credit: SPH-SYOGOC/ Tan Kok Peng

I’m going to at least try to make this about the athletes who have come to Singapore to compete, who have been given the opportunity as one of the best in their sports back home, to come out here and compete with the best from other countries. To me, there’s something special about seeing so many different cultures in one venue. To learn, to compete, to know what it means to fight, do your best, and also make friends.

This is what I’ve seen when I was watching some highlights from the sports being played so far. Athletes doing their absolute best, giving their all and not giving up. Winning as individuals or teams, losing graciously but still with a fire in their eyes to improve, to make it for the next one, to know that even if they won, they are still not good enough, and want to get better. The camaraderie in teammates, the understanding that even if we’re all from different cultures, we’re all still together in one place, competing, making friends, understanding a little bit more about each other, hopefully working toward a future.

Image credit: Samuel Lin

And the excitement of the volunteers who wanted to be there! I mean, these kids WANTED to be part of the Youth Olympics! They wanted to meet athletes, they wanted to make friends, they wanted to learn, mingle, interact, share. I recognise that these volunteers are different from the ones who were forced into volunteering or making up numbers, but they are there nonetheless, and I simply think they deserve a bit more of our support.

Maybe I’m taking things a little personally. Maybe. I know once the games end, my contract would have ended, and I’ll just go back to being ‘lil old me and be my usual snarky, overly critical self again. But maybe some of this ‘Olympic’ spirit has rubbed off on me, this belief that the human race can be something greater, can work together for something good, and that every time I read a cynical comment online, it almost seems like it’s telling the athletes and youth volunteers:

“We wish you were never here. You caused so much inconvenience for us, and it would just have been simpler if the Youth Olympics never happened, or happened here.”

But like I said, maybe I’m taking things too personally, it just sounds that way when I read the comments, and I really hope I’m wrong. I hope that despite the snarky, cynical comments we make about the games, we actually still believe in the youth. Those competing, those who chose to volunteer, and that maybe even those who were forced, can actually start reaping the benefits of this experience. It really is a global forum of 3,600 youths from around the world. How many of us can claim to have experienced that? Maybe for the next 12 days, this is about them, not us.

Maybe we don’t agree with how the party was planned, maybe we don’t like the host of the party we were invited to (Or rather, it feels more like our housemates organised a house party and didn’t bother to check with us), but if the other fact to the gawdy party decorations or cheesy music, is that people are genuinely having a good time, and making friends, are we the ones shortchanging ourselves by hating so much, and not seeing it from the point of view of the party guests?

I know this is an unfair sentiment. I don’t think that if you were forced to volunteer when you didn’t want to, is by any means a justification of the powers and authorities over you to force you to do something you didn’t want to. But maybe, we can try to understand that not enough people stepped up to the plate. Maybe it would have been ideal that we would jump at the opportunity to volunteer or attend the games, but we didn’t. I know it’s not a reprieve, but it makes me ask myself that question. Why didn’t I? Why did I wait till I got a job to feel this way? I believe we share similar sentiments of not wanting to support the games at first, but to feel this support for the games is actually a recent phenomena for me as well. Now, I just want to do my part, and that’s why I’m putting this entry on the line, to get shot down by people who vehemently oppose the games.

But to those of you who are open to being a part of this, who want to see the glass as half full (instead of half empty) I just encourage you to see for yourself, the spirit and heart of the athletes, volunteers and performers. This is something the $300+ million could not buy. You ask yourself what it means to be Singaporean? Well, it doesn’t mean you do everything your government tells you to do. It means you think for yourself, and decide what it means to be a Singaporean, and what differentiates you from the rest of the world. If you’re proud of your differences, shortcomings and triumphs, I think you can be proud that you are able to help host the dreams and aspirations of youth athletes the world over, that we were chosen to be a host, whether the world is watching or not, to be someone special to someone else.

“The athletes, volunteers & colleagues i spend my time with.”
Image credit: Social Media Too!

I’m dedicating this post to you. You who wanted to be here, to be part of something bigger than yourself, who wanted to experience something special in your life, who wanted to know there’s a whole world out there, who dared to dream big, who wanted to meet someone new, who sees defeat as a natural part of life, who wants to make a difference, who believes in a future. This is for you.

  • Zizek

    Sometimes certain things has to be done from the bottom up and the means to get to the end is something to be appreciated. Singapore needs to understand nothing comes instantly and forcing it from the top will generate dissatisfaction as people will feel disconnected.

    Maybe our trees that line the roads are transplanted, as a metaphor for progress' sake. Let the time be now where things grow organically, as we aim to be a truly famous city, its not the things we do, but the people that we are .

  • Nawab

    We are not alone.
    Aparently its a global phenomenon.
    No matter which country organises Olympics, Commonwealth, SEA, FIFA.. the issues are always similar.
    Means Singapore is not a special country in any way, where the government is disregarding its other duties in order to facilitate hosting of an international event.
    The hosting of such events is a matter of national pride and extreme prestige and perhaps the common man takes the opportunity to gripe about the daily grievances, hoping that the international media would pick up the story and the government would be forced to do something about the issue. kudos to the cynics and opportunists for stalking the opportunity.
    Nothing wrong with the attitude but just dun flame the whole international event and the spirit behind it, just cuz your party cant win elections..

    Anyway coming back to my post topic, we (Singapore) are not alone.

    Funnily enough this guy from India seems to have copied all the complaints from out Singapore cynics (you know the posts).

    Similar sentiments from cynics of Fifa 2010

    A suprising report I found, which I hope could have been said about Singapore.
    A whole nation being so proud and coming together in front of the whole world, just cuz of one event. Seems Singaporeans got the opportunity, but missed on it yet again.

    all of us could go on and on about positives and negatives of the Games in Singapore, I am just happy that in a bid to find faults even the cynics are watching the games closely. ha ha ha.


    If not now, then when? If not here, then where? If not him, then who?

    Corrective actions, corrective actions. We are not expecting immediate solutions.

    If you have been volunteering, you know some things can be resolved now, and some things have to wait. For example, if a patient suffers from a limb injury, long term treatment is expected, but at the very least, do not do anything to make that limb pain, or find ways to minimise the pain. What is happening now is someone is asking the patient to use the limb to do something painful, or awkward. The corrective action is to stop forcing the patient to use that limb. I am not asking you (nor anyone for the matter) to make the limb well and whole NOW.

    Wait? You want the patient to pain till death? You sure you want to wait?

    Go read about my short term, mid term and long term suggestions. There are some things that can wait, and there are some things that can't wait, 'cos you are just merely making the injury worse.

  • brian

    Hey man, I think you should join politics or start a political party. You're very vocal, and you obviously have a plan on how Singapore should be run.

    Judging by the number of people who like your comments, I'm sure they'll vote for you too!

    Good luck!

  • Wai Keong

    I've heard some people who want to work more than usual, but were stopped by their leads as they would be breaking labour laws… lol

  • Wai Keong

    “I wish the cynics would just focus their negative energy on me, and let the athletes and volunteers have the time of their lives.”
    Just ignore the cynics if they're being unreasonable. People were on South Africa's backs, questioning if they would be able to pull off a successful World Cup, but they did it. If SA can do it, so can we.

    Even before all the problems with volunteer “welfare” were made public(even before this article came out ,for that matter), I was already having the time of my life. Working at Singapore 2010 has been great. I get to meet people all over the world, I've been having a good laugh every few minutes(even when I need to be serious), to put it simply, it was lots of fun. So thanks to all who made my volunteer experience a wonderful and memorable one.

    P.S.: To all volunteers, if you happen to have access to the village, consider dropping by for an afternoon. You will enjoy your time there.


    Hi brian, thanks for your compliment. There are people destined to be a great man and be a politician, and there are people who will do great by by involving the ground work. I belong to the latter.

    The difference between me and those who are in power now is, I know my limitations, and I know I can't lead.

  • olddownstop

    Why hide the content of the letter?

    My guess is that you were awarded the Singapore Children's Society Silver award, which I reckon is given out to individuals and corporations, for DONATING money.

    If i'm wrong, prove me wrong by showing the letter's content.

  • Diagnostix

    Hi Brian, great post. Fully agree.

    Last night, I tuned in to our boys playing against Montinegro, and I have to tell you I was truly inspired by our young football team.

    I don't normally watch football, I've never really understood why Singaporeans are so into it. But the fact that match had me cheering for our boys raised many eyebrows in my family who normally sees me apathetic to anything football.

    If it were not for events such as this, I would not have been any wiser to what our young athletes are capable of. This group of young boys were truly inspiring.

    So for all those naysayers, please just give it a rest with all the criticisms and go out and support our youths. I know I will.

  • Perplexed

    Now that you mention this, I had this funny thought that the reason why he said the atheletes and volunteers are stars because he is subtly using them to justify the event that he pushed through.

    This is how Bush did it by justifying the Iraq war, proclaiming the soldiers are the real heroes.

    For some strange reason, I see no glory in both.

  • WhyOG?

    It's because everyone here are mistaken in thinking that the YOG should be at the same level of international interest as the actual Olympic games.

    While it is an honor for Singapore to host such a great event for the youth of the world, treating it like it should be a world stopping event (like the World Cup) is delusional at best. Even the original IOC estimate for the YOG was something like $30m USD, that should give folks here some perspective on how involved the IOC views this event.

  • youngupstart

    Wow I didn't realize donating money was not a form of charity.

    In any case, I don't owe anyone any explanation or proof. I don't go about doing charity to prove a point to others. Energy is better spent on helping others.

    Have a good day, troll.

  • olddownstop

    Earlier when told to volunteer you said:

    “Actually, I have. I've also worked with orphans, and with the physically and mentally disabled.”

    Now you said you donated money.

    Nice twist.

  • choon

    The first Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Singapore next year is set to cost at least 25 times more than another sporting event in Finland this summer with a similar amount of competitors.

  • Jeremy Lim

    The fact is, the money's gone. If I were in control, would I do it again in Vancouver? Hell no; let someone else host it and save my children's education. But it happened. And the YOG is happening. Go have fun, because it's going to suck later.

  • Jeremy Lim

    I may have miscommunicated, but money is NOT something to be squandered. However, if the money is already spent, don't complain, and just enjoy it since we're already paying for it.

    The next generation will suffer in Vancouver, as it does in most Olympic cities because of the debt. (I can't think of a single host city that didn't crap out after the Games; Singapore will probably be a first since you guys repurposed everything and did logistics right.) That's the bad part. But if it's here, it's here. Like I said in another reply, given the choice to do it again, I wouldn't so we wouldn't kill our city, but it happened, so go and take whatever's left in.

  • Jeremy Lim

    You know what? I mispoke. It's incredibly fun having the Olympics in your own backyard. But if you're going to have them, have them in a SMART way like Singapore's doing. Look at all those empty venues in Beijing ..

  • Jason

    Anyone who complains about the YOG has only to look at the mess at the Commonwealth Games scheduled to be held in New Delhi. That Singapore has been able to hold this event smoothly when a much larger (albeit poorer) country like India is struggling to hold a third tier event (that has lost its relevance because there is no common wealth in this day and age) is a testament to the prowess of the country. Yes there are less fortunate people here who deserve attention but not spending on these games is like saying that there are millions of people starving in the world so we cannot go to restaurants to eat. We have to find a happy medium to address both the requirements.


    Let me see. Why not ask the PAP government to govern the size and the population of India, and to take charge of holding the Commonwealth games with that kind of money, and I see how capable they are holding it successfully.

    Even with a small country, PAP with a draconian fist controlling every single facet of the society, and they screwed it up badly. Trust me, PAP will screw up 100x with the size of India.

    So far, India is doing fairly well, considering all the limitations that they have (money, infrastructure, etc). Your post merely contrast how PAP actually screw up even more by comparing to India.

    there are millions of people starving in the world so we cannot go to restaurants to eat. <– You use your own money to eat at restaurant, I don't care. You use PUBLIC money to eat restaurant food, I care and I am bothered!

  • I am Just a Singaporean

    There won't be any cynics if it wasn't for you. Good results will silence the critics but in your case, I do not see results, least to mention good ones.

    You mention cynics but not your blunders and mistakes in this post. Have you overlooked yourself?

    And please for humanity sake, do not act like Jesus. Wished the cynics would just focus their negative energy on you? You are no god. Please stop treating yourself as one.

    You failed as a minister, and so have your gang. Period!

  • Cybergal_310

    Where's the evidence that they are doing less work eh? I was a YOG volunteer and they twice the time they spent at their work behind the desk. Oh yes, this is first -hand account by the way…

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  • hi

    hi thanks for sharing

  • hi

    really appreciate the sharing

  • hi

    it is very encouraging