VIEWPOINT: Vision 2030 cannot be about efficiency

Last week's public dialogue session for Vision 2030 provided a first-hand glimpse at Singaporeans' rapidly changing mindset on sport.

Still, a bigger change - one that goes against what made the Republic a success story since its independence - is necessary if Singaporeans are to truly "live better through sports", the tagline for Vision 2030, which aims to lay out a roadmap for sports development here.

Last Wednesday's dialogue gave the public a chance to share what they envision to be Singapore's sports culture, about 20 years into the future.

Mr Chan Chun Sing, Acting Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports, chaired the session, which saw a lively exchange of opinions on how Singapore sports can aspire to be not just for elite athletes, but also for ordinary people.

It was heartening to see more than 290 people from all walks of life enthusiastically airing their ideas for growing Singapore's sports landscape.

It debunks the cynical view that Singaporeans do not care about enriching themselves through sports.

In fact, judging by their impassioned arguments for change during the three-hour session, the participants seemed invigorated by the opportunity to tell the authorities about their desire to improve the sports culture here.

It could only be a good thing for Vision 2030, which in February put out a list of recommendations for reshaping the long- term sports landscape.

It will be a massive undertaking, one that needs Singaporeans to decide how much they wish to be influenced to incorporate sport into their daily lives.

It is clear that Singaporeans are no longer sceptical about sport. Every participant could see its value, recognising that sport is something worth pursuing and obsessing over.

In fact, they want more from sport: greater access to facilities, more funding for every sports discipline, more sports career paths, and so on.

This is all very heartening, but there is one vital mindset that needs to change: the knee- jerk desire for efficency.

There was a recurring suggestion during the dialogue for resources to be channelled to the public from elite athletes.

Why spend so much on just a few sportsmen, when more can benefit?

These thoughts spring from Singaporeans' perennial drive for efficiency, something that has been drilled into us since the nation's independence.

Small island, few natural resources, yet we managed to prosper in fewer than 50 years. A big reason for that is our never-ending quest for higher efficiency, doing things better with fewer resources.

But success in sport is inherently inefficient. Millions chase the dream of being faster, higher, stronger. Millions of dollars are spent to inch ahead of rivals.

These millions are rarely "well-spent", but this is exactly why there is so much joy in reaching the peak. The more you sacrifice - be it time, energy or money - the sweeter and more inspirational the success.

So Singapore must spend, both on the public, as well as on a few talented athletes. And it must spend generously.

By all means, build more facilities and amenities. But we should not frown on spending large sums on athlete development, getting the best coaches, sports scientists and nutritionists to cater to a select few sportsmen.

Yes, not every elite athlete can land an Olympic medal and justify the huge investment and sponsorships.

But no, it is never a waste of money to help a few stars in their endeavours, for it inspires more to reach for excellence.

So let's not fret about making Vision 2030 resource-efficient. In fact, it's better to be prepared to "waste" more, for a better life through sports.

hankeong@sph.com.sg


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