Here’s what an Olympic medal is worth…

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to the 14 Aug 2012 letter “Here’s what an Olympic medal is worth…” by Mr Philip Tan. Mr Tan claims that sports’ ability to forge national unity was proven when Team Singapore was greeted to rapturous homecoming at the airport. How many of those at the airport were direct families and friends of the athletes? How many were directly employed or affiliated to the respective Sports units represented at the Olympics? How many were specially transported there to boost numbers like was done when Community Centres transported people to election rally sites to boost numbers? How many were government officials and their entourage determined to glorify this event? After stripping away all these people, how many are left who were there purely out of national pride and not due to some other vested interests?

There was no report of mass hysteria from the public during their victory parade across the island and the same questions have to be asked about those who were at Jurong Point to cheer the athletes. There is therefore room for doubt about whether Feng Tianwei has truly captured the hearts of Singaporeans since we don’t know for sure the connections and backgrounds of those who were there to cheer her. When staff from the Ministry of Community Development lined up Thomson Road to send off the late Mrs Lee Kuan Yew, was that an outpouring of national pride or the following of orders?

Mr Tan argues that China shows more nationalistic fervor than Singapore because Singapore is much younger. If Singapore is much younger, then China must be much older. But China celebrates 1949, only 16 years earlier than the 1965 that Singapore celebrates. So China isn’t much older than Singapore unless Mr Tan is referring to China’s few thousand year history that stretches far beyond the founding of the People’s Republic of China in 1949. If that is how Mr Tan thinks, then he must employ the same logic to Singapore and accept that Singapore’s history goes beyond 1965 and all the way to 1819 when Singapore was born. In which case, Singapore is no longer very young.

Mr Tan says everybody loves a winner, especially a big winner. In that case we can simply celebrate Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps. Malaysia celebrated Lim Chong Wei even though Chong Wei did not win. That is what national pride is all about, not the celebration of some big time foreign winner, but the celebration of the kampong boy turned good.

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