Youth Olympics a Singapore paradox too

The event went off like clockwork, and it’s mostly due to the Singapore government.

The Youth Olympics has become a popular hate object, and it’s mostly because of the Singapore government too.

This is nothing new. Many facets of life in Singapore, e.g. public transport, display this paradox. The engineering and project management is good, including the marshalling of human resources needed, but winning hearts and minds is an elusive holy grail.

As Lee Kuan Yew fades from the scene, and the generation that held him in unparalleled esteem pass on, the affective divide between the government (now under Lee Hsien Loong) and the people has only grown. The utter lack of charisma among the current ministers has hardly helped.

Citizens pounce on anything readily available, from inconvenience to administrative error or budget blow-outs to vent their frustrations or hiss their ridicule. At times, I have done likewise. The Youth Olympics is just the latest, and will not be the last.

The problem is that amidst disaffection, the government only knows one way of getting things done. Arrogance accompanies the entire process from beginning to end. Taking this event as an example:

1. Believing that only they know what’s best, there was no public consultation before the decision was taken to bid for the Youth Olympics.

2. Believing that only they themselves have the talent to organise something of this scale and anyway unable to trust people they do not control, they kept the organising in-house; the idea that a non-government body should handle the project seemed never to have occurred to them.

3. Knowing that citizens tend to be critical (which they should be), they did most of the planning and preparation in secret; there was next to no community engagement. This especially as efficiency is very highly rated, whereas public-buy-in is too fuzzy and iffy an issue, and entails frictional drag, the resolution of which calls for soft skills which they don’t have.

4. The ever-present economic reductionism seemed to have warped priorities; the project is less a sporting event than waging economic war by other means, so even as domestic apathy became palpable, the priority remained that of image-building to the world at large.

5. Yet, creating a good image requires popular domestic enthusiasm, and at the last minute, it must have hit them that there was little of it — how could it be otherwise, when the project had been conducted in secret with no community participation? Instinctively, high-handed measures were resorted to to ensure a good turn-out and a facade of excitement.

It never quite occurred to our government that their involvement may be toxic. However well they carry it off, the vocal ones among Singaporeans will pick on what they can as proxy for their dislike of the government. The undertow of disaffection drags projects like this into a vicious circle:  The more enthusiasm has to be manufactured, the more authoritarian solutions have to be used, which further increases resistance. On another front, the more desperate the last-minute publicity campaigns, the more infantile they tend to be and the more they are ridiculed.

An organising body less intricately bound to the government and the People’s Action Party might have had a better chance of adopting good marketing and public relations skills, and would not have started off with the handicap of political repulsiveness. But such an idea would have been a non-starter even if there had been anyone bold enough to suggest it at the beginning.

* * * * *

Yet, precisely because the Singapore government took charge of the show, it ran like clockwork.

A redundantly large number of scanners were in place to check bags before we were allowed to enter Bishan Sports Hall where the Finals of the Men’s Artistic Gymnastics were held (18 August 2010). The security checks were smooth-flowing with hardly any backing up, even though turn-out was good with the hall (capacity 1,900) about 90 percent full.

The competition started on time at 6 p.m. and ran so smoothly, it finished (at 8:30 p.m.) more than an hour earlier than the program indicated.

If you check the Singapore government at the door and see the event as sports, it’s actually enjoyable. You feel for the boys as they do well, or make mistakes. One of them missed his grip and fell off the horizontal bar midway through his routine, landing flat on his chest and stomach. Ouch! The sympathetic crowd applauded to encourage him to get back on the apparatus, and when he finally finished his routine, they cheered even more loudly.

There were 18 finalists, all from different countries, i.e. no country had more than one contestant. Some came from really small countries such as Armenia, Cyprus, Hungary and Cuba. The Chinese and Japanese gymnasts had the loudest spectators supporting them.

There were six rotations, with competitors having to go through floor exercises, vault, pommel horse, rings, parallel bars and the high horizontal bar.

About three in four of the spectators looked like they were Singaporeans — mostly schoolkids. It was difficult to tell if the rest were foreigners resident in Singapore, or came here specially to watch the Games.

And finally, here they are — the medallists:

  • Gold: Kamoto Yuya, Japan
  • Silver: Oleg Stepko, Ukraine
  • Bronze: Zhu Xiaodong, China

Congratulations!

74 Responses to “Youth Olympics a Singapore paradox too”


  1. 1 yuen 19 August 2010 at 10:06

    first, there is no need to try so hard; giving their buses special traffic lanes and threatening motorists with fines for not giving way to their vehicles annoyed many people

    second, too much segregation; if the objective is to make friends and give visitors a realistic impression of singapore, there should have been more mingling, e.g., volunteers and athletes having the same buffet lunches – why shouldnt they queue up to get food like the others?

    in trying too hard to give people an idealistic impression of singapore, simple things become complex and more expensive

  2. 2 francis 19 August 2010 at 10:52

    Congratulation to Singaporean athletics for the 1 silver and 2 bronze, hope that there will be more medals and an end to the PAP’s fascist YOG movement so that we can truly enjoy the game instead of enjoying their manufacturing enthusiasm

  3. 3 georgia tong 19 August 2010 at 12:19

    Thanks for the article. You have analysis the issue of lack of public support spot on.

  4. 4 yawningbread 19 August 2010 at 12:38

    Yuen – you wrote “giving their buses special traffic lanes and threatening motorists with fines for not giving way to their vehicles annoyed many people”

    Let’s be fair here. The govt has explained that this was a requirement imposed by the International Olympic Committee as a condition for hosting the games. And I can understand it. Athletes and officials must get to venues on time. Nowadays with worldwide broadcast arrangements, no international sporting event can afford delays.

    • 5 Anonymous 19 August 2010 at 14:12

      I myself had no idea this was a IOC imposed-condition. If I had known, I would been less begrudging of the government for this heavy-handed approach, not so much of the inconvenience per se.

      I think it is a PR and courtesy issue. I’ve never heard the government apologize for causing inconvenience, or saying thanks for understanding.

      I was in a memorial park in New York, near the Statue of Liberty. There were some very pretty flowers on a raised flower bed, but they were heavily-fenced up. A few meters ahead, a sign immediately explained that the flowers were in their infancy and were quite fragile. The fence would be removed once the flowers gain strength.

      An extra effort no doubt, to put up the signage. But it dissolves any displeasure and generates a wealth of goodwill. well worth the effort!

    • 6 Lee Chee Wai 20 August 2010 at 03:23

      They could have handled the road issue better by reserving the necessary lane(s) on key routes, explaining why (the IOC), and then offering alternative routes for drivers who hope to avoid congestion, thus allowing them to plan their drives.

      I mean, come on … they’ve blocked off entire roads for Thaipusam and F1 before. This elaborate give-way-or-fine system was obnoxious and unnecessary.

      • 7 LOVE CHOW 26 August 2010 at 15:18

        [this comment edited out by Yawning Bread, because it was off-topic, nothing to do with Youth Olympics. It was also troll-like and provocative.]

    • 8 prettyplace 20 August 2010 at 11:17

      IOC has this rule because sometimes people hog the roads to catch a glimpse and wave at athletes, but these are senoir athletes.They are talking about.

      Singapore should not have imposed this fine but sent a warning to motorist who hog the roads purposely.
      This would have checked our motorist, instead it became another bad PR.

  5. 9 raph 19 August 2010 at 12:57

    The average sporean may NOT have the time and energy for the YOG. People are busy trying to make ends meet!

  6. 10 Chris 19 August 2010 at 15:59

    It is interesting that on the main news and talk radio channel here in the UK, and in the newspapers, there has been next-to-no coverage of the YOG. The young diver from the UK (whose name I forget–Ryan Daley??) sparked one entry on the BBC News website, but only because he ended up not going (I think) because of injury. There are now (I just checked) a small flurry of news articles which you have to root around for since most of the articles under the “Olympics” link on the Sport page have to do with London 2012. I would be surprised if the “man on the Clapham omnibus” or “Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells” has any idea that the YOG are going on or where they are occurring.

    As for the US, I don’t see any articles on a cursory examination of CNN’s website under the Sport link.

    My conclusion is this (limited) survey of popular news websites: apart from specialists or people who follow Olympic sport, all the money spent on the YOG has not resulted in any increase in awareness of Singapore in the wider world.

    Was the investment worth it, I wonder. With no prospect of Singapore actually bidding for the adult Olympics (I believe it’s too small, although if they put in a joint bid with Malaysia and/or Indonesia they might be able to make it work, but regional sensitivities make this unlikely) the government might have expected some PR advantages from having the YOG. As of now there doesn’t seem to have been any measurable increase in awareness of Singapore or the Games.

    Of course, once the YOG are over, like all Olympics (except for the Munich Games and the Berlin Games of 1936, which are notorious for other unconnected reasons) the venue and the games themselves pass into athletic obscurity.

    • 11 Anonymous 19 August 2010 at 20:27

      I do agree, it is a pity this sporting event was not as well received world wide and as you mention, the investment might not have been worth it (or so it seems).

      When you mention the investment was not worth it, you meant it in monetary sense (ie: publicity and revenue)

      However, let’s not diss our government and their effort like this.
      On the other hand, although many have complained, we did a brilliant job in handling the complex logistics from scratch.

      From the creation of mascot, to painting every major highway with ‘give way’, to building up all the sports hall, there’s so many things involved.
      Why not look at the efficiency of creating all these without any reference and making everything run so smoothly.

      In the long run, we have proven our ability to coordinate and organize such a grand event within such a short time with such limited resources. This might be a precursor to other more significant events as worldwide leaders (at least people in the know), will see and acknowledge our organization efficiency. Even if Singapore is unlikely to host the Olympics, we have had the privilege of hosting the 1st YOG, something no one in our neighborhood had the chance to.

      Although they would have been able to handle certain minor issues better (eg: explaining to people why the special lane and fine was necessary – in all honesty, without a fine, how many people out of 10 would give way to the olympic bus?), as Singaporeans, we should stop nitpicking certain details out of proportion and fail to stand back and applaud the effort of the government, like how the audience applauded the effort of the athlete that fell off the bar.

      The government and the organizing committee spent alot of effort coordinating international efforts to come up with this. Do you think anyone will recognize or know who was part of the committee or how much they and their family members have sacrificed over the year just to organize this to make it smooth running? What do they have to gain? That huge bonus at the end of the year?

      Ultimately, what they bring to you guys and all of us, is whenever we step out of our homeland, when we go overseas with that red passport, we feel proud and honored to tell people that we are from Singapore.

      • 12 KT 19 August 2010 at 23:08

        You make it sound like the YOG was organized with a budget of $10, and the organizers did the work without pay. That would have been admirable. But they spent $387m. That should paint a lot of roads and create a lot of mascots. Pretty much tackle any problem that can be tackled with money, don’t you think? But money can do only so much.

        As for feeling proud to be a Singaporean, what’s there to be proud of, seriously? More like embarrassed and ashamed!

      • 13 Anonymous 19 August 2010 at 23:46

        KT,

        indeed, $387 million is alot. But it doesn’t mean that with money, everything can be tackled.
        You’re right, and that’s why there are several issues that the committee overlooked and it’s good that we are bringing that out.
        For example, what Rat said about his/her cousin wanting to watch the games. I do agree, there should have been several contingencies that weren’t thoughtfully considered. I do agree that that is one of the mistakes made.

        What i’m trying to bring out is that, given the scale of event, we should applaud the committee for their bravery for trying.
        True, they did get paid, but as we all know (for those working), there are alot of people who just work enough to continue to get paid and there are those that work for more than what they are paid.

        I absolutely agree with Mahb, excellent execution with bad PR and marketing.

        Like how we teach our own kids, we should compliment the good work and correct the wrong. I just feel that most of us are too focused on the bad to look at the good.

        As for feeling proud to be a Singaporean, I don’t know about you but for me, having lived abroad for a good number of years and seeing how others govern their countries, definitely everything to be proud of.

      • 14 prettyplace 20 August 2010 at 00:07

        To an extend it is well co-ordinated.
        IOC would have provided a blue print for the logistics and games management. The LOC would have to just follow them word for word.

        However, the part on engaging Singaporeans…..
        I agree with Alex strongly that a non-govt body should have been engaged for PR & Marketing, both in Singapore and overseas.

        I am not sure who was their target audience. Our school kids or all Singaporeans? Worst it is becoming gutter politics by some critics.

        On the whole, I am enjoying mostly on tele and going to head down for tennis and athletics finals. I don’t see much difference between adults and kids. The strenght they portray is the same and I hope it rubs on our kids.

        I certainly hope, sports grows and MCYS gets certain pacts signed up with foreign national associations to improve our athletes and coaching staffs. More money must be pumped in next year as well for local associations to achieve this objective.

        I know the sporting world would recognise Singapore now. It will be easier for us to organise major events eg. like an International Athletics Meet or Tennis Tournament.

        These are money spinners, just like F1 and boxing, but we must have our athletes too. The only way forward after this event is to make sure our sportsmen and women, get better.
        That means more money and I am sure the sports world will be keen to lift us up.

        There is always a special kind of bonding in sports where businessmen can never understand. I notice, Singaporeans want to only see in digits. I hope this event helps us to create a sports industry.

        By the way, I wanted to get involved and was excited until the selfish comment, which just killed me.

      • 15 yawningbread 20 August 2010 at 00:26

        We have no idea whether the first “Anonymous” is the same person as the second “Anonymous”. Can commenters please use a unique nick?

      • 16 Anonymous 20 August 2010 at 10:29

        ‘As for feeling proud to be a Singaporean, I don’t know about you but for me, having lived abroad for a good number of years and seeing how others govern their countries, definitely everything to be proud of.’

        You are proud to be a Singaporean because of the government?

        Only Singaporeans would say that. I can’t imagine anyone from any other country saying the same thing. Yet, Americans are proud to be Americans, Brits Brits, French French, etc etc. Does that mean Singapore is the only country with a good government that its people can be proud of? No, it just shows how pervasive the government is in our daily lives and thinking, even subconsciously. It is even bigger than the skies above our heads. Singaporeans have allowed themselves to be defined by their government!

        I have a question for you: When the PAP is no longer in power, will you still be proud to be Singaporean?

      • 17 KT 20 August 2010 at 10:32

        Oops, sorry. Anonymous @10.29 is me, KT.

      • 18 Anonymous 23 August 2010 at 09:43

        I am a little up set with this type of public declaration:

        I lived overseas before,so I know better.

        just like the Straits Times,they must ask in their food interview,yr last meal,who you want to have with.and majority declared that they wished to have their last meal with the greatest man on earth,LKY.

      • 19 Anonymous 23 August 2010 at 10:04

        Personally I do believe that most of those in the committe are connected to PAP,one way or another,or trying to get into their good book,this is from my personal experience.

        With such a rich and powerful party and government,it is very hard for me to believe that they do not gain anything.Why are you so confident of making such a grand declaration?Either you are in the hook or you are really naive,perhaps just 25 years old,I am using my children as reference here.

        You may have other valid reasons,the I am sorry.

      • 20 lol 23 August 2010 at 22:50

        if you think that I am proud to be a Singaporean because my government is good at organising overpriced sporting events, it’s like saying I’m proud of my company because my secretary knows how to organise a good potluck.

        if you’ve been overseas, you’ll notice that people respect countries alot for their culture and people, something that would be well worth investing $387m for.

    • 21 Anonymous 24 August 2010 at 09:09

      why is an overseas exposure(working overseas,visitsd overseas) so so imporatnt and worth repeating so many times.

      I am sorry I was educated overseas but never ever in my life I mentioned this,and that has been a long time

      Why?bacause to me it is just not relevant,not important!

      Important thing is whether we really did learn some useful lessons when we were overseas and it seems that many who love to remind people about their overseas exposure fail just that.

      • 22 Chris 24 August 2010 at 18:45

        If you took me for an expat Singaporean, I am enormously honoured and pleased. I am instead a dual US/UK citizen who has been in the UK for 16 years now. My partner is Singaporean, and I have been to Singapore many times.

        While the government of Singapore in one way does not “care” what the rest of the world think of it, in another way, it cares quite a bit. As Singapore depends on trade and travel for a generous portion of its income, it spends a lot of money promoting itself to the outside world. I see advertising for Singapore travel, Singapore Airlines, Sentosa Island, and the Great Singapore Sale quite often. There are many hubs in Southeast Asia such as Bangkok, Hong Kong, and KL, all of which compete with Singapore for flying business from Europe. Singapore has to manage its image as a new world-class city (which it is) and make itself more desirable as a destination for a stopover on the way to or from Australia or New Zealand. So internationally its public relations and advertising is geared at that.

        The advent of the casinos has probably added another PR string to its bow: people who would have gone to Macao or Malaysia to gamble and spend money now have a third destination in which to do so.

        My point was that the YOG, while an enormous coup as far as sport is concerned (any country which hosted the first YOG would gain enormous cachet from it), has not added significantly to Singapore’s level of recognition in the UK at least. I discovered that the BBC did run 1/2 hour of news and video from the YOG, buried in the very late hours of the night or the wee hours of the morning. Viewers will be numbered in the low 1,000’s rather than in the millions.

        Was it worth it? Only Singaporeans will be able to answer that question, and the question is probably not worth asking until the YOG are over (is there a Youth Paralympics Games after this, just as there is a regular Paralympics Games after the main Olympics?) and the janitors are finished tidying up and the roads are back to normal. There will probably be some improvements in local amenities such as swimming pools, athletics stadia, and the like. I hope that the games will indeed be a plus in some way to the country. If there is an effect on politics, it is not possible for me to predict what that might be. Some reflection after the athletes have departed would probably be profitable.

        Good luck to Singaporeans in the YOG, by the way, and well done to the volunteers who made it happen.

  7. 23 thetwophilo 19 August 2010 at 16:10

    ”An extra effort no doubt, to put up the signage. But it dissolves any displeasure and generates a wealth of goodwill. well worth the effort! ”

    Showing goodwill to the people? This govt scores a 3 in a scale of 10, in my opinion.

    Are you showing goodwill calling people daft, complacent, meeting people with knuckle dusters in a cul de sac or digging spurs into your sides (implying that we are animals) making sarcastic remarks about the poor when an MP begged for a little more for them (remember, the scene from Oliver Twist when he went up to ask for ‘more’?. Of Course. LKY was on record long ago as regarding Singaporeans to be dogs and his ego is hurt if he is not feared as a leader.

    It is not goodwill that govt is showing, it is arrogance and taking Singaporeans and all others who operate here, for granted.

    No reason why we should not be returning the compliment?

    • 24 KT 19 August 2010 at 20:12

      What have Singaporeans done to show that they deserve better treatment and more respect?

      • 25 prettyplace 20 August 2010 at 00:15

        Don’t ask what your country has done for you, but what you can do for your country. JFK

        I think this was said years ago to many older Singaporeans, who are currently picking up cans.
        Thus, people are thinking and asking the same question back to the politicians.

    • 26 signage_girl 20 August 2010 at 02:20

      pardon, I made the comment about signages in New York. I’m not the anonymous in the other replys.

      I’m not sure if you understand. I was citing a example I saw overseas, and that the principle behind the signage (of govt/state-park justifying their actions and explaining the future outcome) show a desire to make the citizen a part of work-upgrading process. The citizen feels somewhat consulted, and may feel goodwill (defined here as: a good relationship, cheerful acquiescence) to the govt.

      I’m not championing to overhaul signages in Singapore btw. I’m just suggesting that adopting a desire to consult the citizen will go a long way. (somewhat similar to points 1 and 3 in the blog)

  8. 27 finecity 19 August 2010 at 17:59

    $130 fines imposed by IOC? Got to be kidding !

  9. 28 mahb 19 August 2010 at 20:12

    Thanks Alex, that’s a very good analysis.

    I think it’s basically a relatively well organized event (from what I can see) but with extremely bad PR and Marketing.

  10. 29 Former Civil Servant 19 August 2010 at 22:28

    It would be good if our local media can take a more critical view on matters (not just YOG alone), rather than just re-print press releases from the government. If not, the politicians and civil servants will simply get complacent, thinking that they can do no wrong, since the media will not point out their errors.

  11. 30 Rat 19 August 2010 at 22:46

    Great analysis as usual.

    I am personally interested in sports and find this event very weird. Singaporeans have become so fed up with anything that comes from the top down, that they start to criticize every single detail.
    The issue I have with these games is the fact, that the government tries to use even a sports event for their blatant propaganda. This includes showing off to the world what a great sport nation Singapore is. Thus, we see banners and flags put up mindlessly everywhere. We get the overly kiasu organizing committee to ask MOE to grab as many tickets as possible with total disregard of ‘normal’ people wanting to watch the games as well.
    I found myself trying to get tickets for the basketball event without success for all the weekends. My cousin came here to watch his daughter compete and we found ourselves without tickets in Sunday virtually begging people for a ticket. The organizers didn’t even keep some contingent for visitors from overseas. (My cousin wasn’t the only overseas visitor stranded without a ticket).
    And inside the venue, there were lots of empty seats and the rest filled with kids in uniform, who don’t even know what the sport is all about. (And were unable to even support their own team properly to give them some home advantage).

    I can say, that Singapore is a country pretty much void of passion and hence, should never host such an event. It’s a pity for all those enthusiastic young athletes from all over the world.

  12. 31 No Fool 20 August 2010 at 00:01

    “winning hearts and minds is an elusive holy grail.”? Is that even a goal??? No it is not.

  13. 32 gaveston 20 August 2010 at 07:08

    Great article, Alex. Very even-handed.

  14. 33 SHLIM 20 August 2010 at 18:09

    you know, i was just wondering why the opposition party members did not jump into the fray with you guys and criticize the government. because they’re intelligent enough to know that the YOG is about the athletes and whatever negative criticism about the games, during the games, affects the country’s image as a whole, which in turn affects OUR image as well! if you wanna criticize, please bring it OFFLINE and till AFTER the games. you know the shit carries forward, and something online is difficult to erase. 10 years from now, all our foreign counterparts are gonna laugh at us for being a country of noobs… because they THINK everything here sucks like what you have described… the government sucks, the people sucks… to me, this isn’t just about the YOG anymore. we all know it is human nature to be selfish, but please, think about yourself in a wider context and DO NOT RUIN YOUR OWN FUTURE GOD DAMN IT!!!

    • 34 Ponder Stibbons 20 August 2010 at 22:00

      Uhh, if the criticism is to expose the government’s authoritarian methods, so that it affects Singapore’s image in the sense that foreigners realise that it’s an authoritarian state, why would you want to hide that? It is an authoritarian state. We should be laughed at for using authoritarian methods to create “support”, because that provides a possible reason for the government to stop using such methods. It’s exactly because of the possible foreign press coverage that people are making noise, because they know the Singapore government cares only about face, and one way to make it changes its ways is to demonstrate that its current ways will make it lose face.

      I can turn it around by saying that those who keep quiet are ‘ruining their future’ by ensuring that there will be zero pressure for the government to act on your feedback after the Games is over, since then there will no longer be any issue of saving face. The problems identified will continue. Is that good for Singapore’s future?

    • 35 D 21 August 2010 at 02:33

      I beg to differ on the point made by SHLIM.

      I think that foreigners will deride our stupidity in not speaking up than to the contrary.

      On the other hand, why do you even care the foreign criticism when you cannot even accept your fellow citizens’.

  15. 36 Robynn 20 August 2010 at 22:31

    Good as your write-up was, my lip couldn’t help curling in a cynical grin.

    Could you get ANY more gayer? I’m not presuming that you only watched this singular but the fact that your only YOG-spectator post is of the gymnastics event… seriously I doubt you could even break the stereotype gay mold even if you tried.

    Next time, could you try being not so trite?

    And by the way, I’m a proud gay man too.

    • 37 yawningbread 20 August 2010 at 22:56

      Everything I write is infused with my liberal values and gay sensibility. What’s wrong with that? What’s so illegitimate about writing with gay sensibility? Why is that any less legitimate than writing with a hetero sensibility?

      • 38 lol 23 August 2010 at 22:54

        every true admirer of sports knows the only sports events featuring youths worth watching is gymnastics.
        Well at least women’s gymnastics…

        btw you don’t have to be gay to enjoy male gymnastics.it’s just a bad stereotype.

      • 39 yawningbread 23 August 2010 at 23:44

        Surely that cannot be. I was just watching pole vaulting, steeplechase and other athletics on TV with my father. They’re great to watch too.

    • 40 KiWeTO 21 August 2010 at 01:18

      Wouldst thou thereby be suggesting that YB should offer even coverage of the event? 90% shots of women and 10% shots of men?
      [why would that be even? reflect society’s 90/10% assumption? why not 50/50 men and women photo shots?]

      And hey, would his readers of the female persuasion not worry for once about the male-dominated approach to reporting and enjoy the view and critiques? that’s appealing to 50% of potential viewers!

      being too pedantic perhaps?

      E.o.M.

    • 41 Anders 23 August 2010 at 11:54

      While I also recognized the gay touch to the article, I just found it quite charming and tongue in cheek. And I’m completely straight.

  16. 42 RW 20 August 2010 at 22:37

    well written article and enjoyable to read.🙂

    I’m glad that at least this commentary was by someone who actually watched the games and also saw the sports side of things.

    I agree that there are plenty of things that could be done better- PR, community engagement etc. And I’m 100% in favour of making constructive criticism to improve the system- after all, it is the first time singapore is hosting such a huge sports event.

    But it is sad that some netizens decide to view it from a political angle- an opportunity to deride the govt at the same time. Sure, failure of the games will embarrass the govt, but it will eventually reflects poorly on all singaporeans to the outside world, as well as a disservice to all teh atheletes who trained hard and travelled here to participate.

    I was at the airport in BKK and met the Congolese team coming into Singapore. I could feel their excitement and pride to be participating in the games as they talked abt how they beat other african teams to participate. Even though its really expensive to come to Singapore because of the exchange rate, they were glad to have the opportunity to come to Asia for the first time.

    i think it is through this close interaction with the athletes, that I saw YOG beyond a govt activity and see it from the athletes perspective. It’s something many young people have trained hard for to participate and some flew faraway to participate. I’m sure those of us who did competative sports when younger will remember that feeling.

    • 43 KiWeTO 21 August 2010 at 01:29

      Whoops – Cmpetitive sports – how many netizens can raise a hand to say that they were really much good at competing at sports?

      hehehe

      The average dissatisfied SG netizen is so anti-PAPgovt that their lenses are permanently coloured anti-white.

      Since The YoG committee was set up using the authoritarian(istic) approach to organizing and garnering societal support for the event, they have to take the brickbats on ‘win overseas hearts whilst losing hearts already home’ And it doesn’t take much for coloured lenses to focus on anything ‘visible’ in terms of efforts to win the heart&minds of Singaporeans whether it is a fair target or not.

      And,

      Yes, those athletes trained hard. Competed harder. They probably saved hard, campaigned hard to raise funds to participate in YoG@SG. They would have done the same, and experienced the same giddy excitement upon landing at Domodedovo or Sheremetyevo if it was YoG@Moscow.

      E.o.M.
      [I wasn’t any good at sport.]

  17. 44 Antares 21 August 2010 at 00:48

    Absolutely brilliant blog you operate here, Alex. Consider your back heartily patted!

  18. 45 Ken 21 August 2010 at 01:36

    @Robynn – If this entry had been written by a female blogger who mentioned that she chose to attend the event to ogle the guys, would that have warranted a similar response from you? That she was being so “trite”? Or that she was in some kind of stereotype “mold”?

  19. 46 yuen 23 August 2010 at 03:15

    It is hard to avoid the view that the August 2010 Youth Olympic Games, the first ever, now being held in Singapore, is turning out to be a disappointment: it has not attracted large tourist entries nor major overseas publicity (the press of various nations basically report, usually briefly, the successes of their own athletes, the main exception being China which showed more general interest), and local attendance has been poor, particularly the ancillary events such as concerts by the Vox group, with mostly empty seats

    Why? I dont think the cause was the minor poor PR events like complaints about school children being recruited to stand in welcome parties or do volunteer work, the low quality lunch given to volunteers (including one case of stomach upset involving 20 people and another one of a maggot in one visitor’s food), a tent collapsing during storm, etc., which were blown out of proportion because the mood was already sour. Even the perception of “expensive project stuffed down our throat” was something that came after the mood had already turned unsupportive.

    Let’s start from the beginning. When bids to hold the inaugural YOG were being considered, the competition was between Moscow and Singapore. The reason IOC chose Singapore was, I think, not primarily financial – Moscow might have less money to spend, but it needed to spend less because there is already Olympic infrastructure in place; the consideration was probably to avoid big power rivalry and choosing a neutral venue. Curiously, I think that was actually the biggest problem with the choice: there is no motive for Americans, Europeans and Koreans/Japanese/Chinese to “go there and show their people what we can do”.

    With that factor absent, the various nations did little to promote the event, other than sending their own teams, and even there not always attaching the highest priority, e.g., Michael Phelps could not be persuaded to turn up. It seems that you have to have a level of controversy built into an international event to start with in order to promote it, e.g., the one incident that attracted wider international reporting was an Iranian boxer refusing to fight an Israeli.

    Given the low overseas attention, Singaporeans naturally begin to ask: what do we spend all that money for? It does not help that the initial cost estimate turned out to be grossly low. I guess not having expensive ancillary events like the Vox concert might have reduced the problem – in a way, the concert illustrates both the over optimistic expectation of interest and the insufficient concern for cost control.

    I also see issues like the large numbers of tickets given to sponsoring companies, which unfortunately do not get them to people who want to go to the events, so that people who actually want to go to some events end up not able to get tickets, even though there were plenty of empty seats; excessively severe publicity about giving traffic priority to YOG vehicles – needed to ensure that athletes and officials arrive on time, but the notices could have been nicer; insufficient opportunities for locals, in particular volunteers, to mingle with the visitors – if people get to meet the figures you read about in the news, you feel better about doing something for them. But I am only being wise after the event.

  20. 47 yuen 23 August 2010 at 03:19

    A reasonably calm discussion from Temasek Review

    Take care of Singaporeans too, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan
    August 23rd, 2010 | Author: Online Press

    In his zeal to impress foreigners on how efficiently and smoothly he can run the Youth Olympic Games (YOG), Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports Dr Vivian Balakrishnan has been quite happy to sacrifice the daily necessities of Singaporeans.

    balakrishnan-300x199Take, for example, the temporary closure of bus-stops. The Land Transport Authority has ordered that buses cannot stop outside the YOG venues such as the one at the Toa Payoh Stadium. Two SBS bus inspectors are stationed at the stop to wave buses on and prevent commuters from getting off. Is such a measure necessary?

    Could security concerns be the reason that the LTA is doing this? The answer is no because anyone can walk into the vicinity of the stadium and competition halls. There is no security personnel to check visitors.

    A likelier reason is that the organisers don’t want the entrance of the carpark jammed by vehicular traffic which would prevent YOG athletes and officials from coming and going with ease.

    But how can this be? Buses typically stop for no more than a minute or two to allow passengers to alight. Can the YOG coaches ferrying the young athletes not wait momentarily for the SBS buses to pull clear before proceeding?

    Alternatively, could the traffic wardens on duty not halt the SBS buses to let the YOG coaches leave the vicinity first? Why the need to shutdown down the bus-stop for two weeks?

    Has Dr Balakrishnan considered that there are elderly persons and pregnant women who might have difficulty walking from the next bus-stop back down the road to their destinations? What about parents with infants and toddlers?

    Grandparents escorting their young charges to take the bus to school were seen arguing with officials at the bus-stop.

    busstopWere alternative arrangements made to ensure that they are helped?

    Were residents given adequate notice that the stops would be closed? Apparently not because even the bus drivers had to be cued not to stop. If the drivers don’t know that the bus-stops are closed, how would residents be expected to know? The LTA couldn’t even be bothered to explain why the bus-stops needed to be closed.

    Such callousness is unacceptable especially in light of the fact that the minister spent $7 million on chartering an executive jet just to ferry the YOG flame and $9 million to publicise the Games. Could he not allocate a tiny portion of the budget to ensure that bus passengers, especially the elderly and the young, are taken care of?

    Then there are reports that students who were “selected” to attend the games were not given refreshments and were instructed to bring their own money to buy their own food and drinks.

    The Government can build elaborate stage sets which cost millions of dollars to set up to hold concerts that attracted hardly any audience, concerts that were not even central to the Games. And yet it cannot even buy our students drinks?

    foodAnd while the athletes were treated to buffet spreads, our local volunteers were given meagre portions of rice, fish and green beans. Why such a gulf in treatment? Because they are talent and we are not?

    To add injury to insult, volunteers now find themselves suffering from food poisoning. Thirty volunteers were reported to have come down with diarrhea and abdominal pain after they ate the food provided during the triathalon competition at East Coast Park last Sunday.

    (The incident happened on 15 Aug 10 but was not reported by the Government media until three days later. Even then, the news first broke on the Internet. Were the journalists asleep? Probably not.)

    concertRecently, Mr Goh Chok Tong took another swipe at Singaporeans, saying that they liked to gripe, that is, to complain about things trivial. It’s another indication how removed from the real world PAP ministers are.

    The YOG failings which Singaporeans are pointing out are not gripes. They are serious shortcomings of a Government that has long ceased to pay attention to the grievances of the people.

    Singaporeans are not an unreasonable lot. They will put up with and suffer inconveniences if they know that these inconveniences benefit our nation. But many know that the YOG was staged as a PAP-glorification exercise – one, it must be added, that has gone horribly awry.

    Dr Balakrishnan wants to show the world how well he takes care of an international sporting event. While he is at it he should perhaps think about taking care of Singaporeans too.

    • 48 Anonymous 23 August 2010 at 21:45

      I am part of the organising committee. I did the work because I think I can contribute for the country. There has been alot of hardwork, sleepless nights and long hours which no one other than those involve will understand. I can tell you that what we have done is no different in scope with the main summer games. And it was done in essentially 2 years and not 7 years in a typical game. It can only be achieved through the ingenuity of the individuals that made up the committee. People think that it is the “government” that organised the games. I prefer to think that it is 500 passionate people in the organising committee that bring the concept to reality. It is just a shame that the Singapore population is generally disengaged. There has been many many ommunnity events has been happening for more than 1.5 years. It is just a shame that Singaporeans never notice these things. People don’t even remember the dates of the YOG until July or August. I eat the same food as the volunteers, wake up at ungodly hours to begin work in the mornings and I did it not because of the government or the IOC or whatever. I did it because I am proud to be a Singaporean and I am proud to bring a global event to Singaporeans.

      2 years planning and working on the details, as

    • 49 TR 23 August 2010 at 21:58

      I know many volunteers for the YOG. Frankly, the food isn’t that bad. It is not much different from getting food from the neighbourhood economical rice. Volunteers should have a decent meal but I think it is unrealistic to expect gourmet or hotel quality food. Also, I think the issue of “mass food poisoning” is over-rated. Twenty plus people with diahhorea vs the tens of thousand of meals served is not “mass food poisoning” Nobody was warded in hospitalised. I get a sense that some sectors are out to whipped up the public sentiments and using this event for their own agenda. So too bad, I don’t agree with TR’s approach to this issue.

  21. 50 KT 23 August 2010 at 23:12

    ‘I can tell you that what we have done is no different in scope with the main summer games. And it was done in essentially 2 years and not 7 years in a typical game. It can only be achieved through the ingenuity of the individuals that made up the committee.’

    London’s budget for the 2012 games is £9.3b. That’s 51 times the amount spent on the YOG.

    The YOG is no different in scope from the summer games? Wow, I guess you should go show those Londoners a thing or two. Show them your ‘ingenuity’ which no one else has!

    ‘There has been many many ommunnity events has been happening for more than 1.5 years. It is just a shame that Singaporeans never notice these things. People don’t even remember the dates of the YOG until July or August. ‘

    I couldn’t agree more. These dumb Singaporeans never notice anything! It’s all their fault.

    Thank god Singapore has ingenious, selfless and patriotic people like you! Thank god!

  22. 51 yawningbread 23 August 2010 at 23:40

    To Anonymous 2010/08/23 at 21:45 who said he was one of the organisers –

    As I mentioned in the article, the logistics organisation looked to me like it was done well. You can pat yourself on your backs.

    I’m aware that other websites have seen comments about bad food, food poisoning, etc. Look carefully and you’d notice I steadfastly refuse to write about such things. These are anecdotal reports, and I doubt if they are representative. Food poisoning happens in the best of times. I think they are blown up by those who would want to find fault.

    The key issue is: Why are Singaporeans so ready to find fault?

    And that’s the main point of this essay: The Singapore government is toxic to a lot of Singaporeans. Their imprint on anything is the kiss of death as far as public interest or support goes. I’m surprised to hear that public relations outreach had been going on for 1.5 years; I for one had not encountered any. I don’t think I’m alone, because right up to end July, the apathy was inescapably palpable. If PR had been going on for 1.5 years then either it was badly managed or people saw it as a government thing and instinctively kept away. Singaporeans have learnt that for the sake of our own sanity and self-respect, we stay as far away as possible from any campaign with a government stamp on it. I’m sure most people saw the YOG in the same way.

    One reason I can offer for the endless bitching since July is this: Precisely because PR was ineffective, awareness stuck at near zero and interest undiscernable among the public, the stage was set for PR disaster.

    The first contact most people had with the YOG took the form of compulsion or inconvenience. Students got drafted to attend. Others got drafted to “volunteer” as aides. Hostel residents were told to move out. Motorists suddenly heard of a new fine. Suntec City shopkeepers discovered new restrictions that would dissuade customers from going there. If first contact is negative, it sets the tone for how people view the event thereafter.

    If PR had been successful in the months leading up to it, building up enthusiasm, people would have seen the inconveniences in perspective, and drafting and compulsion might not have been necessary at all.

    The huge poser for Singapore is this: Can PR ever be successful when we organise big events? If big events must necessarily involve the government and if government involvement is invariably toxic, how will things ever be different?

    [By the way – reminder to all: Please use a unique nick, not “anonymous”]

  23. 52 Wang 24 August 2010 at 20:33

    YB

    Any perceived proactive disengagement is more on those who feel anathema to anything the government of the day does.

    For those who are neutral or willing to be even handed, would view as interesting and will watch maybe.

    However, I would opine the disengagement is the result of the following :-

    a) lack of publicity, frankly PR efforts were poor even in the target schools population

    b) lack of instant recognisable stars which is no fault of the host nations but the nature of the event.

    Regards

  24. 53 Wang 24 August 2010 at 20:34

    Kudos to participants and organisers especially the local Singapore team and designers of the Torch and great usage of water features

  25. 54 yawningbread 25 August 2010 at 12:20

    This letter by Alex Liang (it is self-explanatory) to the SYOGOC (Singapore Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee) is going public and spreading like wildfire. I think it refers to the event I watched:

    QUOTE

    Alex Liáng :

    My name is Alex L S Liang and I am a writing an official complaint about the commentators of the gymnastics event that accompanied the live broadcast. I am a former Singapore national champion gymnast (1993, 1996, 1997), a veteran of the sport and a journalist for the American gymnastics magazine International Gymnast and I currently reside in London where I work in television here in the UK. I was mortified by your choice of commentators for the gymnastics event.

    Your commentators for the event were a two men team – one of whom is an American and the other is a local. Neither know much about gymnastics – now I don’t expect them to have the kind of technical knowledge a professional gymnast or coach may possess (since the majority of your audience are non-gymnasts) – but it seemed that they had done a crash course on gymnastics terminlogy, possibly read up a few pages on the internet and were throwing completely random terms during the broadcast, trying to bluff their way through the event quite unconvincingly. They made a complete mockery of their jobs – and this has made them the laughing stock in the gymnastics world. Just go to some of the gymnastics forums and the gymnasts are mocking what complete fools these two have made of themselves and the event. There is a fine balance between dazzling the audience with technical terms and making the sport accessible to an audience who may be watching the sport for the first time – your commentators totally failed at both for they not only knew little – but were confusing the audience by using totally the wrong terms to describe the gymnastics moves performed.

    They were at the Bishan Sports Hall – surrounded by so many gymnasts and coaches from all over the world; did they make any effort to ask anyone to clarify what was going on when they weren’t sure? For example, a buzzer sounds on the women’s beam event and on the men’s floor exercise to alert the gymnast that they have ten seconds left to finish their routines. Every time they hear the buzzer, the commentators would say that the gymnasts have gone overtime – which isn’t true at all. Did no one go up to these two commentators and gave them a (very long) list of errors they made after each session? Are they simply oblivious to their mistakes, or so arrogant that they cannot be asked to find out?

    Secondly, your local commentator had a terribly strong Singlish (Singaporean English) accent – surely you could go to any of the top schools in Singapore and pick a student at random and find someone who would speak better English. Now as someone born and bred in Singapore – I have no issues with Singlish – nothing makes me feel more at home than hearing authetnic Singlish in Ang Mo Kio. But good grief, your local commentator struggled with words beginning with the letter V. That’s an elementary error common with those who speak Chinese as a first language – as the sound of the letter V doesn’t exist in Chinese. It was embarrassing to hear him mispronounce again and again words like “vault”, “avoid” and “value” – he kept saying, wault, awoid and walue – and his American colleague made no effort to try to correct his bad English. It was incredible when he said today, “he was already won two medals and has now picked up a turd” (he meant to say THIRD, but being Singaporean, he was unable to pronounce the “TH” sound and said ‘turd’ instead). That I can forgive as many Singaporeans are incapable of pronouncing the “TH” sound (again, not found in Malay or Chinese) – but there comes a point where you have to draw a line and have some quality control and demand that a commentator knows the difference between a third and a turd.

    Thirdly, the American commentator seems to know absolutely nothing about Singapore and makes basic errors when describing Singapore. He mentioned that Singapore was situated off the East Coast of Malaysia – which is wrong, Singapore is at the southern tip of the Malaysian Peninsular. And his Singaporean colleague made no attempt whatsoever to correct that mistake (why, was he afraid of showing up the American?) – which is unbelievable as any Singaporean should know where the island of Singapore lies relative to Malaysia. Furthermore, the American commentator makes very basic errors such as getting the country of the gymnast wrong (he said that Diana Bulimar was from Bulgaria instead of Romania) and he mentioned today that Carlotta Ferlito has already won two silver medals when she had only won two bronzes at that stage (before her beam finals). If you are going to bring an American in – surely there are plenty of other Americans who are a lot more competent than this joker?

    Furthermore, both commentators struggle with pronouncing the names of the gymnasts – Chinese names were hopelessly mangled beyond recognition (did the local commentator forget all the Hanyupinyin learnt at school)? Even Swedish and Russian names were mispronounced – but this was overshadowed by the way they really mangled up all the Chinese names and made elementary errors like saying Xiaodong Zhu (“Shaodong-zoo” they kept saying) instead of Zhu Xiaodong. The event was held in Bishan of all places, they must have been surrounded by thousands of Singaporeans who were fluent in Mandarin – didn’t anyone correct them? Did no one on their team speak any Mandarin at all? Was there no management in place to tell them where they have gone wrong and how they could avoid repeating such elementary errors? This is clearly a management error – if you want to bring in American commentators fine, but monitor how they are performing, check on them, listen to them as they work and don’t just assume that they are going to deliver a flawless performance. This is clearly a management issue – you are not managing your staff and not giving them the help or training they need to do their jobs properly.

    I could go on – but it suffices to say that after having been watching gymnastics competitions broadcast on TV since the early 80s, this has got to be undoubtedly the worst possible commentary team in the history of the sport, ever, by a very long way. So whilst the gymnastics community will mock you organisers behind your back on their online forums, as a former Singaporean national gymnast, national champion and national team captain from the 90s, I feel it is my responsibility to bring this to your attention and point out to you what a disaster – no, what a complete catastrophe these two jokers have been. Let me be constructive and make you the following suggestions.

    1. There is a thriving gymnastics community in Singapore. http://www.singaporegymnastics.org.sg/ Have you ever thought about approaching them for help when it came to choose commentators for the sport? They would be able to provide gymnasts, ex-gymnasts and coaches who have a detailed technical knowledge of the sport and can guide your commentators through the sport.

    2. The most successful gymnastics programmes are found in the top schools in Singapore – such as Raffles Institution, Hwa Chong Institute, RGS, SCGS, CHIJ St Nicholas etc – where the standard of English is extremely high. You could have easily approached one of many ex-gymnasts from these schools who are both knowledgable about the sport and are eloquent and articulate in English.

    3. Surely you must have some kind of English oral exam before you let these people on TV and test if they can pronounce simple words like “vault” and “avoid” – and why aren’t these people corrected along the way after they make such elementary mistakes? We’re humans, we make mistakes – but when you keep making the same mistake over and over again, then it becomes a management issue. Why aren’t these two commentators managed properly? The fact that such elementary mistakes were made again and again is indicative of very poor management.

    I only hope you will learn from your mistakes at this YOG and stop deceiving yourselves that mistakes weren’t made. When you have the world watching, you have to put on a good show or risk making a fool of your country.

    Alex Liang

  26. 55 T 27 August 2010 at 09:37

    /// KT 19 August 2010 at 23:08

    You make it sound like the YOG was organized with a budget of $10, and the organizers did the work without pay. That would have been admirable. ///

    KT, I know for a fact that the committee members, staff and volunteers are not paid for the YOG work. If the committee members happen to hold their current day jobs, they get their pay from their current employers. The SSC staff are paid their SSC salaries – no extra pay for YOG work and no overtime pay. And I know for a fact that during the games, they are putting in 6am to 12 midnight almost every day. And the volunteers – go check out the meaning of “volunteers”. Some of them flew in from overseas on their own expense.

    So, please, be fair.

    • 56 yuen 27 August 2010 at 09:59

      I have no doubt many people worked hard for YOG without monetary return, but the criticisms are not generally aimed at them; they are at most collateral casualty. As far as I recall, no one said the budget overrun was due to payment (and lunches) for SSC employees/local committee members/volunteers.

      But for the expenditure to have shot up so high, there must have been inadequate cost control; an example we can see is the Marina Bay concerts – they must be quite expensive to put on, yet were poorly attended, perhaps because of insufficient publicity in the right circles; they also show over optimistic expectations of local interest in YOG.

      I also think the contract SG government negotiated with the IOC must have been open ended, with a lot of expenses for committee members’ visits and travel/living costs for the national teams not being stringently capped; while construction and other costs rose in Singapore during the last few years, they could not have been enough to cause such a blowout

    • 57 KT 27 August 2010 at 12:17

      T

      Please educate me. What the hell were these unpaid labourers doing at 6 am or 12 pm, almost everyday? Picking up rubbish?

      ‘The SSC staff are paid their SSC salaries – no extra pay for YOG work and no overtime pay.’

      Is the YOG work ‘extra’ work? If not, why should the SSC staff get extra pay? They were paid, period! No OT pay? Tough shit! Lots of other people don’t get OT pay either.

      You, go check the meaning of ‘volunteer’! How ethical was it to coerce people, including children, into contributing their time? How many of the volunteers were ‘volunteered’, against their will? How many people flew to Singapore to be volunteers? Two?

      How many man-hours did the ‘volunteers’ provide? How many man-hours did the YOG use in total, including those provided by contractors who surely charged commercial rates? Let’s have a breakdown of the numbers to substantiate your claim that the people behind the YOG were self-sacrificial saints. If you don’t have the numbers, please dismount from your pedestal.

      If all or most of the staff were not paid, WHAT the hell did we spend S$387m on, apart from S$7m on carrying a stupid torch around?

  27. 58 Vernon Voon 27 August 2010 at 12:58

    I think the organising committee did very well. Getting public feedback before bidding for the Games may have taken too long and we may have missed the deadline. I think most will agree with me that the majority of Singaporeans were happy at winning the right to host the Games.

  28. 59 T 27 August 2010 at 13:38

    /// yuen 27 August 2010 at 09:59

    I have no doubt many people worked hard for YOG without monetary return, but the criticisms are not generally aimed at them; they are at most collateral casualty. As far as I recall, no one said the budget overrun was due to payment (and lunches) for SSC employees/local committee members/volunteers. ///

    Well, KT did. See my response to him and his reply. No point talking to him.

    • 60 KT 27 August 2010 at 14:27

      Don’t put words in my mouth!

      Saying that the people (below VB and TSL) behind the YOG are not self-sacrificial national heroes is not the same as saying they are responsible for the vast amount spent. Hey, I bet VB also organized the YOG without extra pay!

      No point talking to me? No point indeed, because you can’t think of anything to support your point! Heheh, can’t come up with anything that’s worth doing at 6 am, can ya?

  29. 61 beast686 27 August 2010 at 17:39

    Boy oh boy. This is getting to be a fierce debate.

    Actually, I don’t think most people are criticizing the volunteers; in fact, under should shoddy management and terrible circumstances, they already went beyond the call of duty. Poor food, non-working bus fare cards, falling canopies……all these is the collective result of an event which has not been fully planned. I remember Singapore hosting the SEA games but we are not seeing the type of screw-ups we are witnessing at this Youth Olympic Games.

    That aside, I think most Singaporeans (myself included) cannot fathom how a budget of 90 something million could explode into a colossal 387 million. The government did not even care to explain how the costs came about, especially when no new facilities were built to cater for the event.

    In most democratic nations, the government would have a lot to answer for with such an accumulation of cataclysmic disasters. But not this government. Which is why people are angry, and rightly so.

  30. 62 T 27 August 2010 at 20:58

    Commonwealth Games cost up 1575% since bid: NGO audit

    NEW DELHI: While hosting a mega sports event, some escalation in costs is understandable as new projects get added and the scale of the show is expanded.

    However, in the case of Delhi’s Commonwealth Games, official cost estimates have gone up by a whopping 525% since the city won the bid. Unofficial assessments put the escalation at a mindboggling 1575% – that is more than 15 times the original estimate – according to an independent report released on Thursday.

    India’s bid document for the Commonwealth Games in 2003 estimated the cost of hosting the event at Rs 1,899 crore.

    After several revisions the estimates now range from an official figure of Rs 10,000 crore to independent experts at an astounding Rs 30,000 crore.

    These figures were put together in a ‘white paper’ on the financial and social cost of the event titled, The 2010 Commonwealth Games: Whose Wealth? Whose Commons? The report, released by former Delhi High Court Chief Justice A P Shah, uses RTI replies, government papers, expert inputs and media reports to ‘unravel’ the tale of escalating costs, unplanned development, and violation of human rights of the homeless, slum dwellers, beggars and construction workers in the run-up to the Games.

    The report was prepared by the India chapter of Housing and Land Rights Network, which is an arm of Habitat International Coalition, an umbrella body of 400-odd human rights and development organizations. It predicts that the Games would leave behind a “severe financial legacy”.

    The ‘white paper’ cites a 2009 report by the Comptroller and Auditor General to chronicle changes in the Games’ budget. “Originally, in May 2003, when the government allowed the Indian Olympic Association to bid for the CWG, an expenditure of Rs 296 crore was indicated towards upgradation of sports infrastructure and conduct of games, with expenditure on security and Games Village to be incurred by the government and Delhi Development Authority,” the paper states.

    The report moves on to reveal that the updated bid document of December 2003 estimated the operating expenditure alone at Rs 635 crore and other expenditure at Rs 1,200 crore.

    “The first budget for the Games approved by the Cabinet in April 2007 estimated the total expenditure at around Rs 3,566 crore,” the report adds.

    Tracking the variations in the budget estimates projected at different stages, the report goes on to cite excerpts from statements made by politicians in the Lok Sabha. The report states that on May 7, 2003 the minister of youth affairs and sports, Vikram Verma, said, “The details of requirement of funds and its sources can only be worked out once the Games are allotted to India.”

    It goes on to quote the minister’s reply later in December 2003 in Lok Sabha stating that as per IOA estimates, the likely expenditure on the conduct of the Games was Rs 399.05 crore. This did not include the cost of construction of Games Village (estimated at Rs 186 crore) and an estimated expenditure of Rs 32.5 crore for construction of an outdoor and indoor stadium at the Yamuna Sports complex and upgradation of existing infrastructure under the DDA.

    In May-June 2006, it was reported that cost of the Games had escalated to Rs 500 crore. In July 2006, union minister for Youth Affairs and Sports, Mani Shankar Aiyar, came out with his own projections. He said the Games would cost Rs 7000 crore but adding that no more than Rs 2000 crore should actually be spent on the event.

    Moving to the current official estimate, the report quotes CWG director general V K Verma, who said on March 24 this year that the entire expenditure would come to Rs 10,000 crore.

    Different official explanations have been offered for the spiralling estimates. “Escalating costs on several items including infrastructure, accommodation, catering, opening and closing ceremonies, Queen’s baton relay, rent for office of the organizing committee, communications, technology, risk management-insurance, volunteers and technical conduct of sports are the reasons given…,” the report says.

    It concludes that the budgetary commitment to the Games was apparently made without a detailed analysis. Citing the financial crunch that the Delhi government claims to be facing and the cost of living going up with rising land prices and more taxes being imposed on Delhiites to generate resources for the next financial year, the report states that the expenses on CWG are likely to result in a “severe financial legacy”.

    “Whether India can really afford such a wasteful extravaganza,” is what the report seeks to know from the Centre and the state.

    • 63 KT 27 August 2010 at 23:15

      What is your point, if any?

      • 64 yuen 27 August 2010 at 23:38

        their officials dont get paid very much, so errors are more acceptable; they probably also dont have ivy league degrees

    • 65 beast686 28 August 2010 at 00:04

      There was a lot of corruption involved in this particular Commonwealth Games in India. Are you suggesting the same for this olympic games?

    • 66 KT 28 August 2010 at 10:14

      T

      Since the YOG involved no new infrastructure, let’s compare the S$387m spent to India’s operating expenses for the Commonwealth Games 2010.

      From your (badly written) cut and paste job:

      ‘The report moves on to reveal that the updated bid document of December 2003 estimated the operating expenditure alone at Rs 635 crore and other expenditure at Rs 1,200 crore.’

      ‘It goes on to quote the minister’s reply later in December 2003 in Lok Sabha stating that as per IOA (India Olympic Association) estimates, the likely expenditure on the conduct of the Games was Rs 399.05 crore. This did not include the cost of construction of Games Village (estimated at Rs 186 crore) and an estimated expenditure of Rs 32.5 crore for construction of an outdoor and indoor stadium at the Yamuna Sports complex and upgradation of existing infrastructure under the DDA (Delhi Development Authority).’

      Was the budget for CWG 2010’s operating expenses Rs 635 crore or Rs 399 crore? It doesn’t matter, because both numbers, from 2003, are horribly outdated anyway.

      A more up to date estimate:

      ‘By August 2009 (but even earlier in the CAG (Comptroller & Auditor General of India) report of July 2009 which was less publicised), came the news that the Games would be “revenue-neutral” — that its operating expenditure would exactly equal its revenue. Now both operating expense and revenue estimates have ballooned, to Rs. 1,620 crore and Rs. 1,708 crore, respectively.’

      Source:http://www.scribd.com/doc/34969715/Humanity-Equality-Destiny-Implicating-Tourism-in-the-Commonwealth-Games-2010 (page 24)

      Rs 1,620 crore = S$469m, which is 1.2 times the YOG’s S$387m.

      But, the CWG is about two times the YOG’s size in terms of number of athletes. But, the CWG’s international media coverage is way, way more than 1.2x the YOG’s, judging from past games. But, Singapore’s politicians are the cleverest and most efficient in the world!

      Anything else you want to say, T? If there is, please, think before you speak. 6 am or 12 midnight is a good time for some clear-headed thinking if you’re not too busy clearing rubbish.

  31. 67 T 28 August 2010 at 23:15

    /// KT 27 August 2010 at 14:27
    Don’t put words in my mouth! ///

    I don’t have to do that. You are fully capable and like to put things in your own mouth. And you like to blow things up.

    /// KT 19 August 2010 at 23:08

    You make it sound like the YOG was organized with a budget of $10, and the organizers did the work without pay. That would have been admirable. ///

    • 68 KT 29 August 2010 at 09:39

      Oh dear, is that the best rebuttal you can come up with? Been a brown noser so long all your brain cells died?

      Still waiting for you to tell the world what critical tasks the ‘volunteers’ were doing at 6 am. Go on, enlighten us!

  32. 69 beast686 29 August 2010 at 10:26

    If the volunteers aren’t really paid, or are paid peanuts, it really worries me……….because how the hell did the budget blew from 104 million to 387 million dollars????

    The question which should be asked is: Where has the 200 odd million plus dollars been spent on? Food? Well then why did it turn out to be so bad? Where’s the accountability?

    It is not that most people want to criticize for the sake of criticizing. It is the lack of information that is making folks like us frustrated.

    • 70 yuen 29 August 2010 at 11:00

      …for the expenditure to have shot up so high, there must have been inadequate cost control; an example we can see is the Marina Bay concerts – they must be quite expensive to put on, yet were poorly attended,…I also think the contract SG government negotiated with the IOC must have been open ended, with a lot of expenses for committee members’ visits and travel/living costs for the national teams not being stringently capped…

    • 71 Might as well be Anon 29 September 2010 at 20:38

      Did anyone notice that the promised(in the YOG proposal) new Kallang stadium still hasn’t materialized, even after the YOG?

      Or did I remember wrongly and they hadn’t promised that blue-yellow, horse-shoe-nautical shell inspired stadium?

  33. 72 T 29 August 2010 at 13:15

    Looks like if one wants to be negative, there is no way to convince anyone. KT said “You make it sound like the YOG was organized with a budget of $10, and the organizers did the work without pay. That would have been admirable.”

    So, I replied saying yes, they are indded doing the work without pay.

    Go, the spineless KT widened his goal posts, and now want to know what some of them are doing at 6am. Do I have to amuse him? If I tell him what they are doing, he will switch his position and attack something else.

    As it is, Besat686 is now saying: “If the volunteers aren’t really paid, or are paid peanuts, it really worries me…”

    Looks like the YOG cannot do anything right.

    Good bye.

    • 73 beast686 29 August 2010 at 17:47

      Please do not take my words out of context.

    • 74 KT 29 August 2010 at 18:31

      ‘Do I have to amuse him?’

      You do not have to amuse him but you do have to stand by what you say and defend it. Otherwise, shut up. If you don’t, someone will call you bluff, like I have. And then you would have to crawl away in a truly spineless fashion, like you are now.


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