Sunday, August 15, 2010

Singapore gets all Stalinist over Youth Olympics

Unlike many Singaporean bloggers and online commenters, I don't have any major objections to Singapore's decision to host the inaugural Youth Olympic Games, which begun this weekend.

Many have complained about the financial impact of holding the games, with the budget trebling from the original forecast to $290m, but such spiralling costs are par for the course when it comes to holding major sporting events.

Others have pointed out, correctly, that the games have failed to attract much international press attention.

But $290m is a relatively small amount of money for the government to commit and, while the Games were never going to generate much coverage outside the city-state, they will undoubtedly help promote Singapore as a major international tourism and events centre among the nearly 5,000 athletes, officials and assorted hangers-on who have come from all over the world.

What I do, however, find funny is the heavy-handed attempt by the Singapore establishment to make the kids Olympics sound like the greatest show on earth.

Singapore has clearly taken a leaf out of China's book but the key difference was that many Beijingers were genuinely proud to be hosting the 2008 Olympics. Most Singaporeans would probably be more excited by a discount computer fair at the Expo centre or a cut in the price of a plate of bee hoon then by the fact they're hosting the Youth Olympics.

But you wouldn't know that from reading the government-controlled Straits Times newspaper, which is hardly an independent voice at the best of times but has now gone into full Pravda mode.

Despite minimal evidence of interest among Singaporeans, the paper has been pumping out story after story about the games over the last few weeks and has now gone into overdrive.

Today's paper carries well over 10 stories about the "dazzling" opening ceremony, which was apparently witnessed by "millions of viewers" worldwide.

"All over the island last night, Singaporeans wanted to witness this landmark moment, whether it was at home, at a mall or at the fringe of the show venue," the paper crowed.

Reading activist Alex Au's blog, which carries a picture of a deserted concert arena, you get a slightly different impression.

With a nod to the likes of North Korea, the Singaporean authorities have also worked hard to ensure they have gangs of obedient, flag-waving young "patriots" to deploy to stadia and other Olympic events as and when necessary.

According to one blogger, secondary school students were forced by their teachers to cheer the Youth Olympics flame as it made its way around the island nation.

In education-focused Singapore, games organisers faced the challenge of roping in volunteers during the exam season, when every available public space, including Changi Airport, is usually full of stressed school kids buried in their books.

But the 7,000 children taking part in the opening ceremony were given special treatment, bussed to practice sessions and then back to school and even being "allowed" to stay overnight at school.

Underlying all this is a key contradiction at the heart of the post-independence Singapore regime, which says it wants to build a nation of patriotic, productive and creative people while also wanting to ensure it retains a large army of hard-working, pliant drones who won't challenge its position.


  1. Goh Meng Seng from the NSP did the following Youtube which best sumarises why Singaporans are so against the YOG.

    It is not true Singaporeans are not passionate or spontaneous. The following is a Youtube from yesteryear. Constrast it with what you are seeing at the YOG.

    When history looks back, I think the YOG will be remembered as one of key milestones in the poliical awakening of Singapore.

  2. The 387 Million bucks spent on YOG would be worth every cent if it results in the political awakening of Singapore.
    88% of the 6,000 polled in a survey indicated no interest in YOG and that says it all.
    However, it pleases me to see Vivian, Teo Ser Luck, PM Lee, continuing with PAP group masturbation, insisting that all is well with typical of PAP buggers.

  3. hahaha...this is funny... i am amused

  4. As a one of the said apathetic locals, I couldn't have summed up my feelings better.

    You should check out another side of how "extreme" the YOG process can get. If you haven't already, that is -