Monday, August 16, 2010

Jacques Rogge brings Olympic spirit to Singapore

The Youth Olympic Games, held for the first time this year, is a longstanding pet project of Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee, who has spoken of his joy at watching his "baby being born".

And it is heartening to see that Rogge has ensured that the full Olympic spirit has been brought to Singapore, where the games are currently being held.

I'm not talking about international solidarity, amateur dedication or the principles of sportsmanship. No, I'm referring to the Olympic spirit of marketing fascism.

A letter sent to some Singaporean parents asking for permission for their children to "volunteer" as spectators has been published on a number of online forums and blogs.

The letter instructs parents to give their children money as refreshments will not be provided. However, they are kindly informed that "your son/ward is allowed to bring a water bottle provided the water bottle does not have either the "Nike" or "Adidas" logos".

Singaporean blogger Mr Brown remarks:

Since when did school children forced to be spectators at a sporting event have to adhere to branding guidelines? I understand if the athletes are covered by sponsor restrictions but SPECTATORS too? Next you'll be telling parents that the kids can only wear certain brands of UNDERWEAR to spectate YOG events too.

It's worth pointing out that the Singapore organising committee has insisted that no children have been harmed in the making of these Youth Olympic Games and that all the youthful spectators are there of their own accord. According to AP, Ng Ser Miang, chairman of the Singapore Youth Olympic Games Organizing Committee and IOC Vice President, said:

There will be stories flying around. But just look at the faces of the children that are there, the sparkle in their eyes and the smile on their faces. Those are not things you can force. I don't think anyone will be forced to come to watch the torch relay or the Games. So I don't think there is any coercion.

Since I published yesterday's blog post, it's been drawn to my attention that there is an "I hate the Youth Olympic Games" Facebook group, with nearly 2,000 members.

The organisers of the group attack the more than trebling of the initial Games budget and contrast it with the relatively paltry amount spent by the government on welfare for the needy.

But, for what it's worth, membership of that group of online dissidents is dwarfed by the 58,000 people who are "fans" of the official Games Facebook group.

I'm sure that Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong is a fan of the games but that didn't stop him apparently nodding off during the "dazzling" opening ceremony.

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