Across the bay from the Youth Olympics

As the opening ceremony was in progress on the north bank of Marina Bay, some kind of Youth Olympics carnival was going on on the south bank, just in front of The Sail building. Its centrepiece was a huge concert arena with perhaps 1,500 seats laid out, and in which a band was playing. I took this picture:

I wonder how much of the S$387 million — the estimated cost of the Youth Olympics — went into that.

I saw a bit of the fireworks overhead, but since I didn’t have the right camera and tripod for proper pictures, I decided not to stay for the main fireworks display. What’s the point of staying? Better to get home before the crowd spills out of the opening ceremony, packing the trains.

Back home, I turned on the television and caught the tail end of the opening ceremony, in which a ghastly oversized bird built of chicken wire mesh and neon lights borrowed from Geylang (our red light district) floated across the bay. Perched on top of the contraption’s head was somebody holding aloft the olympic torch.

Down on the water were eight to ten dragon boats playing the role of marine outriders to the fat bird. I was horrified that we chose kitsch over the authentic. We didn’t need the bird. It would have been more elegant to convey the torch at the head of a dragon boat. How much did that fowl cost? More money wasted.

* * * * *

Official photos can be found at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/15322733@N05/sets/72157624722380428/show/. The next three are taken from that set:

I went to that site looking for a photo of that bloated blinking fowl, but it was not among the available pictures. While there, I noticed the selection bias of that official Youth Olympics site. There are plenty of pictures celebrating Singapore, very few honouring the athletes. It’s chest-thumping and self-glorification all over again.

In fact, this one below was the only picture I could find (as at midnight Saturday 14 August 2010) of athletes in the marchpast — a group from Turkey. No other country’s athletes were featured.

Perhaps additional pictures will be uploaded tomorrow. But if that’s the final selection I can only hang my head in shame. We are such ungracious hosts, concerned only with bragging about the show we put up, erasing the place of the athletes from all over the world — the kids for whom the event is infinitely more special than it can ever be to any of us. Instead we treat the whole exercise as an instrument of old-fashioned nationalism, with no real concern for sport and sportsmen. Hardly the Olympic spirit.

28 Responses to “Across the bay from the Youth Olympics”


  1. 1 Chris 15 August 2010 at 05:50

    I looked around for coverage of YOG here in London. Aside from a couple of references to that cute diver going next week (if his bicep tear gets repaired) there hasn’t been anything substantive in the newspapers. There’s been two stories on the BBC News website. I had to dig for them, however. There’s nothing on the front page. Couldn’t find anything on CNN.com.

    I hope that Singapore isn’t looking for massive press coverage out of this. At least here in the UK, they aren’t getting it.

    • 2 KiWeTO 15 August 2010 at 09:54

      Tried searching bbc.co.uk for YoG coverage sunday morning after the opening ceremony – it is not on their front page. Nothing about the opening ceremony.

      BBC search bar revealed that there was a BBC YoG microsite. More focus was on YoG via the CBBC website, turning it into a kids ‘news’ event. Apparently YoG might have made the BBC RSS feed on Friday, going by the search results.

      Going to the BBC sport page found no reference to YoG. More coverage was given to Tom Daley (that cute diver Chris refers to) pulling out of the European Championships due to his muscle tear with a minor reference inside the article to how that would affect him competing at YoG. Afterall, someone who had already competed at Beijing2008 is focused on beating all competition, not just competition aged 12-16.
      (Perhaps they could have made it such that those already competing in ‘adult events’ shouldn’t need to achieve reduced glory winning against, literally, “kids”. It is a bit like an F1 car coming to a go-kart race to compete.)

      Perhaps our government is so far-sighted it is trying to win the hearts and minds of tomorrow’s leaders? Very sad to see the empty seats picture. Perhaps showing just how much affection our people have for anything other than making money (or staying alive.) Then again, selective framing of reality can give a different view.

      See what kind of video coverage CBBC gives over the next few days. I know security measures @NTU are so over-the-top that NTU staff are treated like virtual prisoners in their own building.
      (Trust in society continues to break down? We can’t trust our own people who have been working @NTU before we even announced bidding for YoG? Too much anti-hollywood-invented-terrorism-measures probably.)

      E.o.M.

      E.o.M.

  2. 3 yuen 15 August 2010 at 07:33

    The difference having YOG in Moscow instead of Singapore: big power rivalry between host Russia and China/USA etc. When the host is itself a major sporting nation, it seeks to use the occasion to outshine visiting teams in sports performance, while visitors have the motivation of “we are going there to show their people how good we are”.

    Olympics is after all about nations and sports, not about financing and logistics;

  3. 4 Mat Alamak 15 August 2010 at 07:39

    I thought for the Olympics 2008 in China they also show more of their shows and other displays rather than the athletes?

    So anything wrong with what Singapore is also doing?

    • 5 yuen 15 August 2010 at 08:02

      china spent a lot of money on the facilities and ceremonies, but also performed well in sports, if you go by the medal count

      as for whether it is “wrong” to emphasize spending in sports events, I gave no opinion on this, though many others did; you should decide for yourself

  4. 6 rojakgirl 15 August 2010 at 11:35

    I did not really watch it, to be honest. Was in the kitchen preparing part of my dinner. Only watched a few minutes of the starting show. And a bit of it now and then.

    Plus if the NDP Party song was anything to go by(which btw featured 2 strains of melodies that sounded suspiciously like they’d been copied from some popular pop song in the 90s), I wasn’t about to waste my time watching some more plagarized content.

    Also, Singapore waving lions and the like? Not good enough. Even in Chinatown(overseas), you can see that. Plus, the few minutes of dancing I got to witness was spectacularly uncoordinated.

    Also when the show first started, I saw the camera swinging to face a group of Singaporeans. Only 2 to 3 waved and they looked really dour and disinterested. Several times when I popped in to watch, I could not hear much of the audience’s cheers and often, they only started screaming or yelling on cue.

    And even more hilarious, who the hell puts up a cell phone prop to show the world how “enlightened” you are? Or how about the embarrassingly patriotic songs that keep praising Singapore on the bastards… ahem, I mean, the saviours they are. I mean, who actually forces children into performing for mass events? Only North Korea(Airang) and Singapore.

  5. 7 Oh yeah oh yeah 15 August 2010 at 14:56

    >>I thought for the Olympics 2008 in China they also show more of their shows and other displays rather than the athletes?

    So anything wrong with what Singapore is also doing?

    YUP..u’re spot on. We’re no different from the Communist

  6. 8 rojakgirl 15 August 2010 at 19:53

    Btw, this is extremely urgent. From what I know, the Save Vong Yui Kong project is extremely lacking in volunteers. There’re about 4 to 5 key volunteers and a few others helping with smaller tasks.

    And they’re trying to make videos when they meet up with the family tommorrow but there’s only 1 person helping with the shooting of the videos so there’ll be major problems, I guess, in video production quality. Furthermore, I think Lynn from Lainan(sp?) Film was helping with a video but they’ve no idea what’s taking so long.

    I unfortunately can’t help much but if anyone has time and resources to spare, do contact:

    (hui Chun) is 60192287626 or or campaign coordinator Chow Ying 6016-6731909

    Btw, no prank calls or spam calls please. Do that and you will earn my wrath.

    Also, they will probably need help to setup Twitter, Myspace accounts, manage Facebook page, upkeep the blogspot website and to spread the word massively. Because there’re less than 20k signatures on the online petition link. They did manage to get a singer (Yi Jie Qi) to help at the concert at Puchong Malaysia tommorrow but they will need a lot of help to get to 100k.

    I’m going to assume that they need major help in getting more people to coordinate. ASAP, man.

    And if there is someone here who has contacts at any of those big TV stations or newspapers in Malaysia, do contact them too. Because the best way of raising interest is by airing the affairs in some of the biggest places. And if anyone here has contacts with big politicians in Malaysia, do contact them too.

    Btw, they will be launching a universal forgiveness day campaign end of the month.

    Apologies for posting any numbers here, Uncle Alex. =P And if you can make this as a new post, please do?

  7. 12 Slion 16 August 2010 at 00:17

    where is this stage? hahah i 2moro go support

  8. 13 Beast 16 August 2010 at 00:44

    Just came back from my kopishop. The sheer crowd watching EPL, totally engrossed in the action between Liverpool and Arsenal, far exceeds the frigid response to Youth Olympics.

    • 15 Beast 16 August 2010 at 19:36

      I only have one reply to you, the same reply given to the German Army when they asked the Americans to surrender at the Battle of the Bulge:

      “Nuts!”

    • 16 wah piang 17 August 2010 at 11:43

      Uncle Raymond,
      You got eat wrong medicine?
      $400 million a lot of money lay, we only give $110 million to the poor and destitute in S’pore per year. Imagine what $400 million can do.
      We got 2010 NDP parade and fireworks, no need another round lah. Some more our children made to “volunteer” in the rain, given food somebody said they won’t even give their dog.

  9. 17 Speaking 16 August 2010 at 15:47

    For the first 15 minutes, i tot it’s a repeat of NDP. China was really good with their opening. It impressed me the most. Comparing to our YOG opening, ours look like a kindergarten play.

  10. 18 yuen 16 August 2010 at 20:46

    the romans already knew people need bread and circus, but the lesson from YOG is you mustnt have too many circuses so close to each other, and volunteers need to be fed properly, in comparison to the catering for guests – given the large expenditure, it makes no sense to save 50c a lunch

  11. 19 Beast 16 August 2010 at 23:37

    The last I heard they are still trying to coerce JC boys and girls to watch in what has been half empty stadiums at best. This is a bloody farce.

    • 20 yuen 17 August 2010 at 03:25

      normally kids are happy to get a break from school for a free outing maybe with refreshment thrown in, but hype-and-buzz fatigue has set in, and the news about poor quality lunch for volunteer students has not helped

    • 21 Teng 18 August 2010 at 22:47

      Can’t the students stand up for themselves if they really don’t want to watch the games? What happens if they refuse to co-operate?

      • 22 twasher 19 August 2010 at 10:10

        There are accounts of threats that their testimonials will be withheld. (This is the same punishment meted out for offences like not paying library fines.)

      • 23 KT 19 August 2010 at 20:17

        Just threatening to withhold testimonials is enough to intimidate students into kowtowing to the establishment? That’s rather pathetic and spineless. I guess students in Singapore won’t be starting any political or social revolution!

      • 24 moeminion 20 August 2010 at 23:44

        If the student is absent without MC or valid reason, he/she will pay cash to the school for the full cost of the YOG ticket (ranging from $10 for heats to $40 for finals). Students are smart enough to know they are being forced to attend. If they don’t want to watch a game different from the one they are rostered for, there is no exchange allowed – due to logistical concerns. (I’m speaking as one of the minions of this vast organisation.)

        [I made an edit, overscoring “don’t”; I think that’s what the writer intended to say — Yawning Bread]

  12. 25 beast686 17 August 2010 at 17:35

    http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=207260&id=635221961#!/album.php?aid=207260&id=635221961

    Watch the freaking “crowds” and “fervent” support the local newspapers are touting for YOG. Priceless!😛

  13. 26 yuen 18 August 2010 at 21:38

    we hear about complaints from volunteers about having to do the work, getting lousy lunch, and even a case of food poisoning

    the root of the problem is “class consciousness” of the singapore way of doing things

    if the volunteers get the same standard catering as the atheletes, or better still, if they eat the same buffets and volunteers get to mingle with the people they read about in the news, they would be in better mood; I doubt the catering cost would be much higher – adding more food to a buffet is less troublesome than making all those individual lunch packs

  14. 27 ifitsmellslikecrap 23 August 2010 at 18:33

    Just to take a devil’s advocate position on the whole YOG event:
    1. Given the global news agencies’ appetite for only covering ‘sure things’ and the Western media’s general distaste for portraying Singapore in a positive light, it could be no wonder that the YOG isn’t getting any proper coverage.

    In the savage, competitive world of breaking news, its always easier to look for the ‘big picture’ bad stuff rather than giving attention to human interest stories like two Liberian swimmers who’d used a swimming pool for the first time at the YOG (or the very recently formed Haitian boys’ football team that just kicked our asses). And if you take a look at the faces of some of these kids when they perform, you wouldn’t think they were competing in some tiny sports meet… so many of them behave like they’re actually at the Olympics, and that’s such a great thing to see. It’s just a pity that so few reporters/editors in the newsrooms abroad feel that these ‘unknowns’ are worthy of coverage.

    Bottom line, I feel that many of these things could just be the teething problems of hosting a yet unproven sporting event.

    2. As for the lack of crowd at the YOG concerts. Well, this is a topic I bitch about consistently, and I’ve always felt that the general Singaporean public doesn’t give a shit about the arts, let alone local artists… and those making English music especially.

    So it’s no surprise that these shows would be empty, especially since there haven’t been a ton of tourists coming in for the Games. Sadly, if school kids can be bussed out to watch matches, they should at least divert some audience to these shows.

    Irregardless, I do wonder how hard some of these acts have been trying to draw their own crowd/fans to the shows. As I’ve told to some of those performing: “Send out an e-mail/Facebook/Twitter blast that you’ll be putting on a free show with a solid sound set-up and turn it into your own event (and tear shit up in the process).”

    It’s a pet peeve of mine, but the shortage of D-I-Y initiative in the local arts (especially the music scene) bugs the hell ouf of me. In the era of the Internet, you don’t need to wait for “gov’t support” to get your product out there. Yes, it’s a struggle, but what do you expect right? (And isn’t that part of the fun?)

  15. 28 john 8 October 2010 at 14:44

    i was just surfing the net when i came across this website

    it seems like many felt the youth olympics wasn’t really that successful. but criticism aside, why not take a look at how successful singapore has been in preparing for a global event as compared to india. india has definitely no problem with manpower, and they have so much land, yet the commonwealth games has been a total disaster. a small nation like singapore lacks resources and manpower and yet they were able to deliver what the organizing committee had promised.

    i am a JC student from singapore and i was not forced to attend any football matches or whatever. and the case where students had to pay 10 to 40 dollars to the school if they weren’t make it for the match is utter rubbish. majority of the schools in singapore are run by the government and these tickets were provided free for students to support their peers. (i guess it is part of the 300 million dollars spent) many of my friends jumped at the opportunity to get the tickets.

    i do agree that the opening ceremony was really like a repeat of the NDP parade. but don’t you singaporeans feel proud that we’re able to put our resources to good use? we, as a small nation, can only do as much and i must applaud the efforts the organizing committee has made to make the opening ceremony as interesting as possible. dancing isn’t supposed to be synchronized or that would be really dull. its something the youths can appreciate and i think the audience really enjoyed it.

    regurgitating opening scenes from the china olympics will never going to work out. so stop the continued comparison with another games that is much larger on scale.

    i am quite surprised BBC did not provide a comprehensive coverage of the games. but i guess they had more news that was worth the front page as compared to an event happening on the other side of the globe.

    we are only 45 years old. and yet we have hosted so many global events other countries would die for to host. and spare the criticisms please. visit singapore for yourself, and you’d realize how good a nation we are.


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