The Youth Olympic Games — why the great apathy?

August 4, 2010 by
Filed under: Current Affairs and Politics 

Written by Ng E-Jay
03 August 2010

Why do so many Singaporeans fail to feel a sense of pride at our nation hosting the Youth Olympic Games, slated to take place from the 14th to the 26th of August this year?

According to an informal poll conducted at the Channel News Asia website, 90% of the respondents indicated that they were not interested at all in the event.

A quick survey of Singapore’s popular internet forums also reveal a general apathy towards the Games, sprinkled with negative comments about how the event has been organized thus far and how far removed the YOG seems from the daily lives and aspirations of ordinary citizens.

The Singapore Democrats speculate in a scathing article posted on their website that the YOG has not been as successful as the government wants it to be in part because of poor timing — the World Cup, surely the greatest international sporting event this year, has overshadowed it.

The SDP article also lambastes the government’s incompetence at planning the event, citing examples such as the original YOG budget ballooning out of proportion from $104 million to around $400 million, and renowned world athletes and International Olympic Committee (IOC) ambassadors Messrs Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt giving the event a miss.

In late June, Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Dr Vivian Balakrishnan accused Singaporeans of being “small-minded, unfair and very, very selfish”, because of certain remarks directed at foreign-born athletes.

Some critics have been complaining that our government spends precious tax-payer dollars importing foreign-born athletes to help us win medals and achieve prestige, rather than spending time and energy grooming home-grown sporting talents.

Thus far our government has only chided Singaporeans for displaying what it deems to be a xenophobic mentality, but without explaining why local born-and-bred citizens are not given more attention and resources to help them achieve the same standards displayed by foreign-born athletes.

Has our nation really become so superficial, focusing only on winning medals and enhancing our international reputation in the short term, rather than on nurturing our precious stock of human capital for the long run?

Is this why so many Singaporeans have become disinterested in the Games, because they sense the superficiality of it all and the fact that the government will easily set them aside once they are deemed of lesser value compared to the foreigners that can be easily imported?

In thirteen short years, Singaporeans have been through three major recessions, the income gap has widened considerably, lower income citizens are struggling more than ever before to make ends meet because of rapidly rising prices, and the middle class has been disenfranchised because they are being progressively priced out of the property market which has gone to the stratosphere.

It is hard to feel a sense of pride at the Games when the future seems so uncertain, and when the policies of the government seem to be constantly accentuating what author Catherine Lim terms “the great affective divide“.

It is hard to feel a sense of pride when the government has been so embarrassingly uncreative in the organization of the Games and has committed such a vast litany of screw-ups.

It is hard to feel as a sense of pride when there is the growing recognition that citizens are merely being treated as government fodder for increasing some vague notion of prestige that has nothing to do the real lives and challenges faced by ordinary citizens.

It is not difficult to understand why there has been such general apathy and lack of interest for the Games.

Our national values, our sense of belonging and identity, the unique sense of camaraderie and kinship that older generations of Singaporeans have shared has been slowly eroded over the years.

At the end of day, perhaps Singaporeans don’t feel they are part of the Games because they feel the Games were never meant for them in the first place.


7 Comments on The Youth Olympic Games — why the great apathy?

  1. Daily SG: 4 Aug 2010 « The Singapore Daily on Wed, 4th Aug 2010 11:02 am
  2. […] – The Youth Olympic Games — why the great apathy? – I’m getting personal: Incompetence with YOG planning – My Very Own Glob: Is the YOG really […]

  3. xtrocious on Wed, 4th Aug 2010 2:40 pm
  4. Let me take a quick stab…

    Because we have no freaking time for leisure?!

    Let’s be honest, most Singaporeans are working our asses off to pay for our “appreciating assets they call homes”…where still got time and enjoy to stop and smell the roses – much less be “enthusiastic” about the YOG…

    And with it being so close to the end of the World Cup, where still got leave to spare to take time off to be a spectator?

  5. genghis on Wed, 4th Aug 2010 4:39 pm
  6. going by the number of posts and extremely heated comments on the YOG, singaporeans are certainly not “apathetic” about this sporting gathering. “upset”,
    “angry”, even “incensed” are more like it.

    one possible reason they profess they are not interested in it could be that here, at
    least, they have control, and by their presence, or lack of it, can make their feelings about a large and varied number of issues quite clear. there are too many other areas where what they say has no impact.

  7. George on Thu, 5th Aug 2010 12:37 am
  8. ”Has our nation really become so superficial, focusing only on winning medals and enhancing our international reputation in the short term, rather than on nurturing our precious stock of human capital for the long run? ”

    A parallel from Marcos of the Philippines: The Marcos regime undertook mammoth projects of construction, erecting grand imposing but otherwise useless and empty edifices towards the end in honour and praise of themselves. I believed he was even constructing a Philippines version of Mount Rushmore with a likeness of himself featured on it. I think it was still work-in-progress when he was finally overthrown by ‘people’s power’. Wonder if anyone have a picture of it?

  9. patriot on Thu, 5th Aug 2010 9:47 am
  10. Singaporeans in general and as a whole really do not have much time for non-productive events like YOG. Sports is an interest few Singaporeans are keen.

    The resources and inconveniences needed and caused will be overwhelming for a tiny country like SIN.

    no matter how uninterested Singaporeans are; the students, soldiers and some Singaporeans are likely to be mobilized(to volunteer) to have the Event gloriously and successfully closed.


  11. DavidSeeLeongKit on Mon, 9th Aug 2010 5:33 pm

    All this while, this DAFT, IGNORANT, GRUMBLING Senior Citizen thought that:

    Y.O.G = Your OBSCENE Government

    It’s really OBSCENE to spend some S$400 MILLION of the hard-earned monies of S’pore Taxpayer-Voters:

    (a) to create BUZZ to attract more so-called Foreign Talents to FLOOD our country (just like the Orchard Rd FLOODS!)

    (b) to serve as an EGO-TRIP for the PAP Govt (ahead of the General Elections) — in particular, to ensure that $2m Minister Vivian Balakrishnan will be “re-elected” in a GRC walk-over.

  13. Nckba on Wed, 29th Sep 2010 6:26 pm
  14. I can’t help but agree with this article.
    My thoughts are that the measures put in place to ensure the “success” of this event were extremely harsh. Things like fines for failure to give way etc. really do put Singaporeans off. How then do we feel proud of it?

    Try to put someone through a penalty based program and see if he or she feels proud to be in it in the first place.

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