Singapore wants successful sporting culture, not solely medals: Official

In doing so, the aim is to rally communities together and foster national pride and cohesion, said Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth.

David Lee

David Lee

The Straits Times


The aim for investing in sports is to rally communities together and foster national pride and cohesion, said Mr Eric Chua. PHOTO: ST FILE

July 7, 2023

SINGAPORE – The Republic’s goal for its investments in sports here is to broaden access to sports and facilities, while supporting its athletes and para-athletes to maximise their potential.

In doing so, the aim is to rally communities together and foster national pride and cohesion, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Culture, Community and Youth Eric Chua said on Thursday.

“Our goal is to win – of course. But we must accurately define what ‘winning’ is, while recognising that we cannot compete directly with countries that have large populations,” he said.

“Winning” should also not be limited to medals, which are the tip of the iceberg, said Mr Chua. The Government is focused on developing a sport ecosystem that supports athletes across the eight to 12 years needed to get to peak performance, he added.

This is why Singapore has spent an average of $90 million annually in recent years to build and operate stadiums, pools and other public facilities, Mr Chua said during a 5½-hour debate on Singapore’s sports scene.

Sport Singapore’s Sport Excellence (Spex) Scholarship was in 2022 extended beyond athletes competing in major Games, while since 2023, scholarship holders are allowed to retain their scholarship while serving national service.

For athletes in emerging, new and niche sports, the Government is also committed to facilitating access to gym facilities, sport psychologists and competition facilities, he added.

The debate was on a motion that called on the Government to “undertake a thorough evaluation of the areas of improvement in Singapore’s sporting ecosystem”. Filed by Workers’ Party MPs Jamus Lim (Sengkang GRC) and Faisal Manap (Aljunied GRC), it also celebrated the accomplishments of Team Singapore athletes in recent international competitions.

Citing studies that showed most countries do better in sports as they became wealthier, Associate Professor Lim said Singapore has “not only punched way below our weight, but has actually got consistently worse”.

“We do not only appear to systematically under-invest in sport, we also appear to under-achieve relative to how much we put in,” he said. “Hence, the issue is how much more effective can we be with the monies we devote currently already to sport?”

Mr Faisal pointed to the Young Lions’ disastrous group-stage exit at the SEA Games, and called for the Football Association of Singapore (FAS) to engage in a national conversation that includes local fans. FAS is expected to make public a review of the team’s recent performance on Friday.

All of WP’s MPs, with the exception of Mr Louis Chua (Sengkang GRC), spoke on various topics, including football, supporting lesser-known sports, diversity, inclusivity, mental health and post-retirement support.

Leader of the Opposition Pritam Singh said the non-selection by the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) of long-distance runner Soh Rui Yong for the upcoming Asian Games made the sporting body look petty in the eyes of the public.

The runner had been left off the team for failing to honour commitments made to the SNOC and continuing to make “disparaging and derisive remarks”. Mr Singh said the authorities should “intercede to prevent the parties from reaching a point where Singapore sport cuts off its nose to spite its face”.

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