“Celebrating Singapore Sports”
Minister Grace Fu,
Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, SNOC President,
Mr Low Teo Ping, Organising Chairman and Vice-President of the SNOC,
Friends from the IOC and International Federations, and our neighbour NOCs,
Officials and athletes, past and present of the SNOC, MCCY, Sport Singapore, and NSAs,
Friends of Sports in Singapore,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am very happy to be among many friends to celebrate the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC)’s 70th anniversary and the achievements of our sporting community in 2016.
Tonight, I would like to acknowledge our progress in sports excellence, our growing support system for sports, and how sports contributes to a strong Singapore identity and Spirit.
Making Progress in Sports Excellence
We have made significant strides in sports excellence. Our journey at the major Games started some 70 years ago when we were still a British colony. In 1947, the Singapore National Olympic Council, then called the Singapore Olympic and Sports Council, was formed so that Singapore could participate in the 1948 London Olympic Games. It was a time of post-war austerity. High jumper Lloyd Valberg sailed to London and this was Singapore’s first outing at the Olympic Games.
Tan Howe Liang made history for us when he won the weightlifting silver in the 1960 Rome Olympics. But that breakthrough was not sustained. We had to wait a long 48 years before Li Jiawei, Feng Tianwei and Wang Yuegu won a dramatic table-tennis team silver in the 2008 Beijing Olympics. (just missed reaching that gold) This was followed by two bronze medals in the 2012 London Olympics - a table-tennis team bronze and a singles bronze. And in 2016, a Singaporean athlete finally reached the Olympic pinnacle. Joseph Schooling won an Olympic swimming gold in fine style in Rio de Janeiro.
The Olympics is the pinnacle. To get there, our NSAs and athletes have to scale the mountain, step by step. Building the base, competing at local competitions, SEA Games, Asian Games Commonwealth Games, World Championships, earning their spurs. With systematic planning, development and commitment, our athletes have been doing well. In Olympic Sports such as sailing, shooting, swimming, table-tennis and fencing; and in sports such as bowling, cuesports, silat, and wushu which have attained success on the international stage. Athletics has also undergone somewhat of a renaissance, with the likes of canoeing, diving, football, netball, and waterski and wakeboard consistently developing athletes with potential to excel at least at the regional level.
I am glad to see that our Paralympians have also been doing well, showing how sports can be inclusive and inspire the human spirit. Team Singapore Paralympians Yip Pin Xiu, Laurentia Tan and Theresa Goh did Singapore proud winning multiple medals since the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.
Growing a Vibrant Ecosystem for Sports
To compete successfully on the international stage, we need a strong ecosystem for sports. I would like to thank the generations of athletes, coaches, officials and volunteers whose drive and passion have contributed so much to sports in Singapore. I would like to specially thank the past Presidents of the SNOC, and their able Secretaries-General and Committee Members, who have worked assiduously at every task. All of you here tonight have contributed to the sports ecosystem and Singapore’s growth as a sporting nation. Together, all of you have inspired many more Singaporeans to take up sports and support our athletes.
I would also like to acknowledge the generous support from our donors to sports in Singapore – supporting our athletes, sponsoring their participation on various competitions, and helping to publicise their efforts.
The Government recognises the importance of sports in building a healthy, united and resilient nation. We have invested in a network of sports infrastructure over the years, with the new National Stadium and a number of regional sports complexes. We have also supported the growth of a vibrant community with the Sports School, scholarships and sponsorships for our athletes and trainers. Together with our sports associations and clubs, we will continue to support our sports community, develop the pipeline of sporting talent, and support an active lifestyle for Singaporeans.
The story of Singapore and our 70-year sporting journey has been documented in the book, Rings of Stars and Crescent, which all of you will receive tonight. Thanks to Peh Shing Huei’s penmanship, this book not only recalls the pride and joy of Singaporeans in celebrating the achievements of our sporting community but it also shares the lesser-known exploits of many others and the unsung heroes who have contributed to an increasingly vibrant sports scene in Singapore.
Contributing to a Strong Singapore Identity and Spirit
Sports has the ability to inspire, and contribute to a strong Singapore Identity and Spirit. Sports can help bring Singaporeans from all walks of life together, as we cheer and support our athletes, regardless of the time zone they are competing in. Each time Majulah Singapura is sung, we feel a strong sense of pride and joy.
The regional Games hosted here, first in 1973 for the Southeast Asian Peninsular Games as they were called then, and later the SEA Games in 1983, 1993 and 2015, have also been a highlight for many Singaporeans. They are key platforms that give our young sporting talent an opportunity to be cheered on by fellow Singaporeans on home ground. This helps to push our athletes on to greater achievements, and inspires budding athletes to dream big, and lifts our spirit as a nation.
I still recall the great sense of pride when we hosted the sporting world at the 117th IOC Session in 2005, and the honour of hosting the inaugural Youth Olympic Games (“YOG”) in 2010. 20 000 Singaporeans came forward as volunteers for the YOG, and together with many of you here tonight, contributed in their own way to make the inaugural YOG a success, and a model for subsequent YOGs. This left a legacy for Singapore, the International Olympic Council and the International Olympic Movement as well. The strong volunteering spirit for sports also helped to form Team Nila, a growing community of sports enthusiasts and volunteers integral to our sports ecosystem today.
We are also here tonight to celebrate the achievements of our athletes in 2016. Congratulations to all the finalists and awardees – keep striving towards your goals. Your stories and experiences will continue to make an impact and inspire many others in Singapore and around the world.
In a few days’ time, our athletes will be going to Kuala Lumpur to compete in the 29th SEA Games. I am confident that our Malaysian friends will deliver a spectacular Games. I wish all our athletes all the very best. Fly the Singapore flag high!
I am excited for the future of sports in Singapore. With the support of the community and the public, I look forward to more sporting achievements, a growing and stronger sports ecosystem, and above all, for our athletes to continue to inspire us and contribute to a strong Singapore Identity and Spirit. This is particularly so as we are celebrating National Day tomorrow, August 9th.
To our friends from the International Olympic Committee, the Olympic Council of Asia, Commonwealth Games Federation, SEA Games Federation, the international and regional sport federations, and our fellow national Olympic committees, thank you for your continued support of the SNOC and for being part of our sporting journey.
Being here this evening, among old friends, members of the sporting fraternity here in Singapore, Southeast Asia and around the world, reminds me what sports is all about. It is about people who work hard, strive for success and achieve sporting excellence. At the same time, people cheer them on, support them, and make it possible for our athletes to reach their pinnacle. It is about triumphs and also about tribulations. It is also about fraternity and the friendships that we share among athletes, and officials. I have seen over the years how athletes and officials who used to compete fiercely in the ring, on the track or in the pool, in the field, end up being lifelong friends. As a small boy, I grew up among heroes such as Canagasabai Kunalan and Mani Jegathesan, both of whom are here tonight. They were competing with each other on the track, time and time again. Here they are today, good friends for life. This is what the Spirit of Sports is all about. I wish all of you an enjoyable evening. Happy 70th Anniversary to the SNOC and a Happy National Day to all of you. Majulah Singapura!
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