Right Young elite athletes will have a chance to shine on their own Olympic stage in August 2010 at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games
PERFECT PITCH PREPARATIONS FOR THE INAUGURAL YOUTH OLYMPIC GAMES ARE PROGRESSING SMOOTHLY AS EXCITEMENT GROWS RAPIDLY ACROSS SINGAPORE, REPORTS JEANETTE WANG OF THE STRAITS TIMES
36 OLYMPIC REVIEW
f the Youth Olympic Games were an athlete then the Singapore Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee (SYOGOC) looks poised for a gold medal. Despite the relatively tight timelines to deliver the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in August 2010 – compared to the typical seven years that Olympic hosts get – preparations for the inaugural event are well on track. “I think based on the schedule that we have, I would almost say that we’re ahead of time!” said SYOGOC chief executive officer Goh Kee Nguan in April. Since IOC President Jacques Rogge announced Singapore as the YOG host city on 21 February, 2008, the tiny Republic of 710 square kilometres and 4.8 million people has been buzzing with excitement. Individuals, schools and organisations have taken the initiative – and have organised activities like the YOG emblem launch in January, the on-line “Million Deeds Challenge”, sports days, performances and interactive web portals to spread Olympic values and celebrate the Youth Olympic Games. More than 300 SYOGOC staff have also been hard at work and are now in Phase 2 – the operation planning stage – of their Games preparations. This year-long stage, which began in October last year, is focused on getting the venues
ready and developing Games-time operations. “We are now working out the needs for each of the 43 specific functional areas – like medical, security and food and beverage – then integrating them into a model venue” said Goh. Sports competition managers have been hired to liaise with the International Federations (IF) and National Sports Associations to run competitions and over the coming months various testing opportunities, starting with June’s inaugural Asian Youth Games Singapore 2009 (AYG), are planned. “The lessons learnt from these exercises will allow us to refine our various operation plans,” said Goh. Infrastructure-wise, the venues are on track too. In keeping with the IOC’s request, no new sports venues are being built specifically for the YOG – most of SYOGOC’s budget will be spent on operational costs. Goh said Seng Kang West Sports Stadium (hockey) and Bishan Stadium (track and field) should be ready by May this year, the Singapore Turf Club Riding School (equestrian) and 3-on-3 basketball by the end of 2009, and Marina East Garden (canoeing and rowing) and Tampines Bike Park (BMX and mountain bike) by early next year. To get ready for the lucky 3,600 young athletes who will stay there in August 2010, the Youth
OLYMPIC REVIEW 37
Olympic Village at the Nanyang Technological University is also being given a face-lift. Fresh coats of paint and new air-conditioning and furnishings are being put in 11 Halls of Residence, along with a general enhancement of the 200-hectare campus. The University’s Sports and Recreation Centre, a Games-time training venue, is also in the process of upgrading its running track, outdoor courts, changing rooms and floodlights.. “Two and a half years is a tight schedule to run on,” said Goh, “but the Games will be delivered.” Visiting and picking up tips from host cities of other multi-sport events has helped SYOGOC speed up the learning process. In the past year, the team has been to observe the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games, Asian Beach Games in Bali, Commonwealth
Youth Games in India and the Australian Youth Olympic Festival. “It was quite a good contrast, because while Beijing set a very high standard, clearly the other events were more modest,” said Goh. “So between Beijing and the other events, Singapore 2010 will be somewhere in the middle. In the case of the Beijing Games, we saw first-hand how a big-scale sports event was run, spoke to organisers and got a better understanding of the venue operations structure, and the amount of manpower and infrastructure required to run such Games. And it isn’t just in the fields of infrastructure, testing and operations that significant progress is being made. In line with the YOG’s mission as set by the
IOC to incorporate culture and education as a key element in the overall YOG concept, the Organising Committee has been working tirelessly to plan and launch various activities. These initiatives are aimed not only at young people in Singapore, but thanks to a sophisiticated digital media plan, aim to communicate with young YOG fans around the world. A quick glance at the youth microsite, www.singapore2010.sg/whyohgee, which was launched in April, will leave no doubt as to the creativity of the team in Singapore. The site offers everything from blogs by members of the team (who organised an “Office Olympic Games” to alleviate stress!) to the tongue-in-cheek (at best!) advice of the YOG’s very own “Youth Guru”.
SER MIANG NG, CHAIRMAN OF SINGAPORE 2010 AND IOC EXECUTIVE BOARD MEMBER
What will make the Youth Olympic Games special?
Below Young people and adults alike are excited about what the inaugural Youth Olympic Games will bring to Singapore in 2010
The Youth Olympic Games (YOG) will be an amazing experience for young people and I am thrilled to be able to work with the Singapore team to make this opportunity come to life. I’m energised by the passion and dedication of all the young people already involved in the Games – they truly believe in the YOG. I am also very happy to see that the YOG are changing the way sport is promoted, giving people the opportunity to get initiated in different sports and promoting new disciplines. What will the Youth Olympic Games bring to Singapore? The Youth Olympic Games are changing Singapore in two ways. Firstly, the increased international
awareness of the city will encourage us to show the best of our community to the world. Secondly, many different groups, from government departments, private companies, youth clubs and schools are all contributing to the same project – the Youth Olympic Games are already bringing the community together. There is fantastic support from the population as a whole who have understood the importance of the event for our development. What are the challenges the Singapore Organising Committee is facing? The IOC Members decided that the first edition of the Youth Olympic Games would take place in 2010, which left just two and a half years to organise an event with a new concept completely from scratch. So I would say time is our biggest challenge! The comparison with the Olympic Games is always present but the Youth Olympic Games are not a smaller copy of the Olympic Games – there is no precedent in the Olympic Movement for placing so much emphasis on the culture and education elements of the programme. We need to produce something entirely new in its design. Keeping 3,600 young, energetic, passionate athletes as well as non-athletes occupied throughout the duration of the Games is not an easy task – but we have some fantastic programmes being developed and are confident the event will be an incredible success! How will the Youth Olympic Games inspire young people and encourage them to get involved? Young people live very much in a “global community” – they like to share and exchange ideas, cultures
38 OLYMPIC REVIEW
and traditions. We want to encourage this dialogue during the Games, especially over the internet, and hope people all over the world will continue this after the event through the friendships they have developed. In Singapore the youth are very much involved in the Youth Olympic Games with the Olympic Education Programme which was launched in the schools in December 2008. They can relate to the Olympic Values and have already organised YOGrelated events and activities in Singapore and also on the web. How is the Culture and Education Programme going to make a difference? The CEP is about learning and sharing. This is the first time that cultural and educational initiatives will be made such an integral part of a sports event and I think that by coupling sport with non-sporting themes we could set a very interesting precedent for other events. Athletes, but also non-athlete participants on site like young reporters and journalists, as well as young people from around the world, will be able to share information and experiences through a series of activities organised before, during and after the event. The IOC has consulted experts from both the worlds of education and entertainment for the development of this programme. We are especially aware that athletes are “doers” – and perhaps a passive “lecture” environment won’t work. What is clear is that the approach must above all be fun and interactive – and I think we could say this attitude applies to the Youth Olympic Games as a whole!
Above The ‘Whyohgee’ website illustrates the fun and excitement of the YOG Left The Toa Payoh Swimming Complex will host the diving competitions for the Singapore 2010 YOG
The team at SYOGOC realise that the first Youth Olympic Games will only be a success through the participation and cooperation of various organisations and individuals, from education experts, to sports club volunteers, from private enterprises to public bodies. “We have clearly seen how the determination of the government and the enthusiasm and support from the volunteers and the people contributes to successful Games,” said Goh. No doubt, the whole of Singapore – from sponsors to the Government to its people – is behind the Youth Olympic Games. Three local corporate partners have already been signed by SYOGOC and the Worldwide TOP partners have already shown significant support for the new venture. Thierry Borra, Director of TOP Partner Coca-Cola’s Olympic team believes the YOG will be a fantastic opportunity for existing partners to demonstrate their continued commitment to young people and the Olympic Movement, “Coca-Cola has supported the Olympic Games for more than 80 years, and our most recent renewal of that partnership continues our support as a Worldwide TOP Partner until 2020,” he said. “As a long-time partner we are always excited about new ways to strengthen the Olympic Movement and the Youth Olympic Games provides just such an opportunity to reach young people and inspire the next generation of young athletes. At Coca-Cola we support many local initiatives in countries around the world that help young people get more active and involved in sport. We look forward to bringing our experience in that area to help make the Youth Olympic Games a success.” Various Singaporean Government ministries are coming in as partners in areas such as technology, medical and security. And local volunteers have certainly been forthcoming. More than 10,000 people, ranging from school children to retirees, have stepped forward to help in a wide range of areas. Some have already begun their training. A Sports Presentation Camp was held last December to train young TV presenters, and an Anti-Doping Seminar, supported by the World Anti-Doping Agency, was held in February. Most Singaporeans, like student Lai Si Ying, 15, are enthusiastic and want to be part of history in the making. “Although sport is not my cup of tea,” said Si Ying, “I still wish to be involved in the YOG in all possible ways.” With the support of the public and SYOGOC’s determination and diligence, the message is clear: Singapore will deliver a fantastic Youth Olympic Games come August 2010. See you next year! n
OLYMPIC REVIEW 39
FUN AND GAMES THE YOUTH OLYMPIC GAMES IS NOT JUST ABOUT THE SPORTING COMPETITION. OF EQUAL IMPORTANCE IS THE CULTURE AND EDUCATION PROGRAMME, WHICH WILL PROVIDE EXCITEMENT AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE YOUNG ATHLETES IN SINGAPORE
Right More than anything else, the 2010 Youth Olympic Games will be fun, with the Athletes’ Village buzzing with energy and excitement
40 OLYMPIC REVIEW
hen the races, the bouts and the matches are completed each day at the Singapore Youth Olympic Games next year, the action will be far from over. In fact, it will only just have begun. Unlike some other youth sports meetings around the world, the YOG will be unique because it will give equal prominence to educational and cultural issues alongside the on-field competition. This is consistent with the tenets of modern Olympism and the writings of Baron de Coubertin, who believed that sport was a tool through which to educate and inspire young people. Those lucky enough to be participating in the first Youth Olympic Games will also be taking part in the Culture and Education Programme (CEP), which
aims to introduce young athletes, in a fun and festive way, to Olympism and the Olympic values, and to raise awareness of important issues such as the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, the fight against doping and their role as sports ambassadors in their communities. It will also encourage the aspiring Olympians, and young people around the world participating via the internet, to consider other issues such as media relations and career management, careers in sport, social responsibility and the impact of the digital media. “The Youth Olympic Games is much more than just a sporting event,” says Olympic Games Executive Director Gilbert Felli. “It is a festival where youngsters from around the world will come together to learn about each other’s cultures as well as about the Olympic Movement and Olympic values in an exciting, contemporary environment.” There are three distinct stages to the CEP: the pre-Games awareness and build-up, the main Games-time programme, and post-Games networking and programme sustainability. Activities for the pre-Games phase are already well underway, both in Singapore and around the world.
OLYMPIC REVIEW 41
“THE YOUTH OLYMPIC GAMES IS MUCH MORE THAN JUST A SPORTS EVENT... WHETHER THEY GO ON TO TO BECOME SPORTING CHAMPIONS OR END UP MAPPING OUT CAREERS IN OTHER FIELDS, WE WANT THE YOUTH OLYMPIC GAMES PARTICIPANTS TO GO BACK AND BE AMBASSADORS IN THEIR COMMUNITIES, EMBODYING AND PROMOTING THE OLYMPIC SPIRIT AND VALUES”
Left, below and right Education and culture will run parallel to sport in Singapore, giving the festival its unique identity
When it comes to Games time, the four pillars of education – learning to know, learning to do, learning to be and learning to live together – will translate into education sessions, workshops, excursions, forums and cultural and artistic activities. Activities in the Olympic Village will include dialogue with Olympians – athlete role models from around the world – who will be in Singapore to explain to young athletes what it means to be an Olympian and how aspiring stars should behave on and off the field of competition. The atmosphere in the Athletes’ Village in Singapore will be akin to that of a university campus, buzzing with energy and excitement. There is a planned World Culture Village where local students will create booths that each represents the culture and history of one of the 205 NOCs. “We will have a list of 10 things we want the athletes to do, including making 10 friends from different NOCs and getting signatures from Olympians,” adds SYOGOC chief executive officer Goh Kee Nguan. “To motivate them to participate, they will get collectibles such as limited edition T-shirts in return.”
42 OLYMPIC REVIEW
Each evening will see a series of performances by both local and international artists. There will be dancing and DJs from different parts of the world showcasing their music across the Village – not only in the recreational areas but also in the canteen and the gym – ensuring the beat will keep going in Singapore. “Athletes will stay in the Village for the duration of the Games, rather than leaving once their competition is over, as the learning and sharing spirit is an integral part of the Games,” says Felli. A further part of the CEP is the activities that will take place outside the village including the Island activity – an exciting day of team-building, bonding and adventure exercises on one of the islands off Singapore’s coast. A crucial element of the CEP is that it also involves non-athletes – the two main ones being young ambassadors and young reporters. Young ambassadors, representing various NOCs and aged 18 to 25, will take part in the CEP programme and will look to promote the Olympic values after the Games in their communities. There will also be young reporters from Singapore and from the rest of the world.
These will be aspiring sports journalists, in the 18-25 age bracket, who will work out of the Main Press Centre, providing news, interviews and reports for the YOG website and the YOG digital platform. Both young ambassadors and young reporters will also be expected to complete the activities along with the athletes, which will give them a broader understanding of the Olympic Movement and the Olympic values, which they will be able to make use of as they seek to develop careers in the sports sector. And there will also be a programme of activities for the coaches and parents of the competitors as well – teaching them about Olympic values, well-being and social issues that can affect the talented young athletes who they are supporting and encouraging. The CEP won’t finish when the Olympic Flame goes out in the Closing Ceremony in Singapore on 26 August, 2010. Lasting friendships will have been created at the Games and a community network set up, which will allow the participants to keep in touch via the internet over the following weeks, months and years. “Whether they go on to become sporting champions or end up mapping out careers in other fields, we want the YOG participants to go back and be ambassadors in their communities, embodying and promoting the Olympic spirit and values,” says Felli. That is what will make the YOG stand apart from other youth sports festivals and leave a tangible legacy for the future. n
JEANETTE WANG LOOKS AT SOME EXAMPLES OF HOW YOUNGSTERS IN SINGAPORE AND AROUND THE WORLD ARE ALREADY LEARNING AND SHARING
History used to be Prithvi Gundlapalli’s least favourite class in school, but the 14-year-old Singaporean boy has since sparked an interest in the subject – thanks to the Olympic Games. “I hated history. But I researched Olympic history and it was very interesting,” says Prithvi, who did a presentation on the Olympic Movement to his schoolmates. On the other side of the world, 12-year-olds at Finland’s Vaaksy elementary school shared information about the Nordic country with their new Singapore friends at Innova Primary via email. “We have really good sportsmen and women like Formula One drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Heikki Kovalainen,” they wrote. These are but three experiences of
the hundreds of thousands of students in Singapore and around the world who have been touched by Olympism through the CEP. Specially-designed Olympic Education Resource Packs with teaching materials have been distributed to more than 360 of Singapore’s educational institutions. Most of those schools have already begun spreading Olympism to their students through assembly talks, introducing Olympic sports like handball and values like fair-play during physical education classes. Olympic themes have also been incorporated into academic subjects, while Olympic Education galleries and Olympic-themed school camps and sports days are not uncommon in the island state these days.
Innova Junior College vice-principal Chan Ying Yin, whose school is working with SYOGOC on new media initiatives – a key platform for the CEP – like grooming new media ambassadors, says: “The CEP is a great opportunity for our students to understand the spirit behind the Youth Olympic Games, as well as allow them to enlarge their world view. “And it’s not about giving them lecture notes on the Olympic Games – that will not touch them. It’s the involvement that will really make them feel for the Games.” Bukit View Secondary invited Singapore’s Beijing Olympic Games fifth-placed 100m butterfly swimmer Tao Li, 19, to give its students a talk in April on balancing sport and studies. Chung Cheng High student Lynn Yang, 15, overcame her aversion to sports after being introduced to the Olympic Movement through PowerPoint presentations and creative skits.
“Even for someone who is ‘allergic’ to sports like me,” says Lynn, “it brought home the excitement that the Olympic Games generates all over the world.” The CEP is being felt abroad too – through Friends@YOG, which twins a Singapore school with one or two of the other 204 NOCs. By April, 49 NOCs had already been twinned with over 120 Singapore schools. Pupils at Nan Hua High, which has been twinned with the Lesotho and Hong Kong NOCs, have begun learning about new cultures. The Philippines’ La Salle Green Hills has gone one better – it was the first twinned NOC to visit Singapore. In March, some 20 Filipino boys met with 35 St Nicholas Girls’ Secondary 2 students over traditional games and crafts, and feasting on local fare. The inaugural YOG will last only 12 days but the impact of the Games has already been felt by thousands of young people across the globe. n
OLYMPIC REVIEW 43