By Shalini Samuel
THE budget of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG) has brought to mind several things, such as whether it was money well spent and whether the event was good for the nation.
The initial estimate was $104 million, but it tripled to $387 million.
As a Singaporean living in Melbourne, I've had the opportunity to reflect on the intangible benefits of the event. In my opinion, the social benefits that Singapore gained are priceless.
I returned to Singapore on Aug 7 for two weeks to conduct research at the YOG as part of a master's thesis. I was to explore what environmental and social benefits could emerge from the Games, and I came away with so much more.
The YOG brought young people, as well as their families, from over 200 cities around the world to Singapore.
The benefits I saw weren't just in sports. In Singapore, where citizens are so often accused of displaying a lack of graciousness, I saw within the Olympic Village - which I visited as part of my research - plenty of heart.
At the athletes' eating area, for example, I witnessed many athletes from different countries interacting. In one case, two exchanged hugs, even though one had just competed against (and lost to) the other.
Singapore's volunteers perhaps reaped some of the biggest benefits the YOG had to offer.
They had the privilege of hosting, connecting with and even building friendships with young people from all over the world.
Such global interaction would not only have broadened their world views, but also served as an invaluable opportunity to build networks.
The opportunity for leadership on a global scale is a priceless gift for a young person.
Time will tell how it will affect him, but that opportunity to shine, to make a difference to those around him - including those from other countries - is not one to be brushed aside.
Nor can a monetary value be put on that experience.
The volunteers also displayed, through their service, a degree of excellence I have not seen in Singapore in the past. Every volunteer I met - from the young man who escorted me from the carpark to the village, to the volunteer who retrieved my entry badge at the end of the day - seamlessly and immaculately applied all they were trained to do.
Brimming with excitement upon my return to Melbourne, I shared my experiences with friends and family.
Many thought it was groundbreaking to have Olympic Games for 14 to 18 year olds.
In their minds, Singapore will be remembered for taking the lead in a new branch of the Olympic movement.
And for those in Singapore, the YOG experience that volunteers and young athletes take into society as they mature is surely priceless.
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