SINGAPORE - Singapore believes that the hosting of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG) will cost them around S$387 million but money will be well spent as it symbolises the nation's economic recovery. The YOG hosts believe they have opened the path for other countries in the region to dream big as well.
Singapore Minister of Community Development, Youth and Sports while addressing members of the fifth Asean Journalist Visit Programme said yesterday that they are "hosting the games at an interesting phase of the nation's history".
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said that this year, 2010, the economy has recovered, Singapore is building a new downtown in Marina Bay and hosting the games is symbolic to the transformation of the country.
The minister admitted that the amount, at S$387 million, is more than what they had planned for as the initial bid was about S$100 million, but, they will have world class facilities and most of the expenditure is going to local companies.
"If you're going to spend all that money, might as well feed your own people first. The bulk of the money is going to companies which are providing infrastructure, upgrading works and so on. That's one clear benefit," Dr Vivian Balakrishnan said. Secondly, the YOG events are being held at Singapore's facilities in the heartland and neighbourhood centres.
"That means all the improvement works are done to our facilities. After the games end and athletes have gone home, our locals can use the facilities. So there is a benefit for our people. We're not building a new stadium because, for example, in other countries they build big stadiums which remain empty after the events," Dr Balakrishnan said, adding that in Singapore, the upgraded facilities will be used daily.
Apart from money, business and infrastructure, the minister believes there is a software impact which has been felt on several levels.
"First, it gives a chance for our young athletes to compete against the best. We are not a sports superpower, but I'm very confident the athletes today will have many more opportunities to compete against the world's best, supported with the best coaching programmes and infrastructure," he said.
Dr Balakrishnan is sure that the standard of sports at the top level for youths in Singapore will see a drastic elevation.
"Secondly, working with the international federation has given our sports officials invaluable experience. They've learned how to organise and do things professionally. They'll have many opportunities also to be officials and work at other international sporting events," he said.
Through hosting the YOG, the minister said that their organising committees have also gained incredible experience as well.
Hence, after the games have ended, there will be an uplift in sports and its administration, the minister said.
When asked about the criticism from opposition politician Dr Chee Soon Juan, who in a recent article said that "Singapore government knows very little about what the sports world wants, and even less about its marketing," Dr Balakrishnan asked him to see the response on the ground as the torch is passed around, where Singaporeans have been participating as well as volunteers for the games and see how the national athletes are trying their best.
"The answer lies on the ground, what people do and how they feel. At this point of time, I am quite confident that Singaporeans are proud of this and want to show our best to the world. In any society there will always be people who disagree, that's fine. This is a democracy they are entitled to that," he said.
The minister also said that there are 28,000 to 30,000 volunteers who have signed up because they believe in this cause and to get a sense of participation, whether young or old, there is a spirit of enthusiasm and passion bringing the people closer together.
"This may be a once in a lifetime opportunity," he said.
Dr Balakrishnan said that the YOG is a brand new series of games and as opposed to the summer and winter olympics which are grand and expensive because of the required infrastructure. The president of the International Olympic Council, Jacques Rogge, introduced this new series of games.
"This is more manageable in size, targeted at youth and focused on values. When I first heard about this, we decided to be part of it, which I believe we can do although we are small," he said.
The minister added that Singapore is a living example of the values of the YOG, which is targeted at young people in the pursuit of excellence, friendship across cultures and respecting the competitors.
There were altogether 10 cities in bid for the YOG, which was cut down to five and were left with Russia and Singapore.
"We wanted to prove that small countries can have big victories as well," he said.
YOG is expecting 3,600 athletes from all 205 national Olympic committees, 1,600 to 2,000 officials and another 2,000 media personnel.