The Youth Olympic Games — why the great apathy?
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 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.