By jeremy au yong, jay talking
Just thinking about it sends shivers down my spine.
In a few short months, some of the world's best 14- to 18-year-old sportsmen will come to this humble little island to compete, break records and even - get ready for a real treat - visit Marina Barrage to learn about water conservation.
Is it any wonder we are all pumped up for the Youth Olympic Games?
I mean, just mention the YOG to the man on the street and watch his face light up as he remarks enthusiastically: 'What games?' or 'Is that a real sporting event?'
Okay, so lately I've begun to get the impression that not everyone shares my enthusiasm for what is only the most important sporting event to come to Singapore.
In fact, as far as I can tell, your average Singaporean regards the YOG with all the hype and anticipation typically associated with the Combined Schools North Zone A Division sports day. (Is that a real sporting event?)
And no offence to the fine athletes of the Combined Schools North Zone A Division, but this simply is not enough for the YOG.
For sure, no one is expecting it to come anywhere close to the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In the run-up to that event, the whole of China had whipped itself into some sort of Olympics psychosis. We're not going to get that here, but surely we can at least pretend to be more excited.
As a wise man once said, it is in times like these that we need to infect our air of national consciousness with the haze of YOG anticipation, so as to irritate our nostrils of self-interest until they expel the boogers of indifference into the tissue paper of apathy to be finally cleared away by the roadsweeper of true-blue patriotism. Or something like that.
So far, our attempts at expelling these boogers haven't gone according to plan.
People have started to ignore the YOG countdown clocks in town and general knowledge about the games is very scant. I did a quick check among my friends and not a single one could name the mascots, Merly and Lyo.
'I could've sworn he was named Frasia,' said one, successfully confusing the YOG mascot with the one from last year's Asian Youth Games. (What games?)
Anyway, the point is, something needs to be done. And fortunately, there is still enough time left to work on it.
As my personal contribution to this cause, I am offering a whole bunch of my ideas here free of charge, starting with my first suggestion: Create controversy.
The way I see it, one of the key reasons for the rather muted reaction to the games is that there just isn't all that much to talk about.
What we need is some sort of controversy to pique interest.
Just look at the Fifa World Cup. I feel like I've been discussing this event passionately for over half a year. And I'll readily admit this is mainly because the SingTel and StarHub fight over broadcast rights has threatened to wreck the whole thing for everybody. The first kick-off is fast approaching and we are still left on tenterhooks wondering if we will get to watch a single game.
It just goes to show the power of some controversy.
Now I'm not suggesting for a minute that we stage some sort of television rights battle for the YOG. It's hard to threaten people with the prospect of not being able to watch a sporting event they don't know they want to watch.
Drugs and sex might also be of questionable taste considering we are talking about kids here. No, what would work well would be some sort of controversial training method.
I would not mind, for instance, hearing a rumour that the Chinese swimming coach was motivating his swimmers by strapping raw steaks to their bodies and releasing them in a tank of sharks. It'd certainly make me want to see how well they would do.
Of course, if all else fails, we could just get Jack Neo to blog about it. I'm sure everyone is very interested in his blog at the moment.
My second suggestion is this: Have frank, to-the-point yet creative advertising.
The Olympic Games tends to be marketed around such ideals as friendship and harmony.
I say we forget about that for the YOG and go with a message that is easy to identify with and yet communicates what we want people to know about the games: 'YOG - a bigger deal than the Combined Schools North Zone A division sports day.'
Stick that slogan on a T-shirt and I guarantee you'll sell at least one, in XL size. Not to mention that it would make an excellent theme song.
My third and final suggestion is to find a way to make it affect our lives.
Here I am thinking, specifically, of blocking roads. There is nothing like the possibility of an event-related traffic jam to really get people worked up.
So the concept of shutting of specific lanes known as 'Olympic lanes' is a step in the right direction. But for some real buzz, entire 'Olympic roads' need to be closed.
I mean, we blocked roads last year for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit and have been doing the same for the Formula One. And we didn't have any booger problems with either of them.
Either that or declare a new public holiday called YOG Appreciation Day. Wouldn't that be great?
I'm sure it's something we could all get excited about. I got excited just thinking about it.
So excuse me while I blow my nose.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.