Permanent measures of Olympic achievement

Dear Straits Times,

I refer to the 14 Aug 2012 letter “Permanent measures of Olympic achievement” by Dr Yik Keng Yeong.

Dr Yik says that the athlete’s sacrifice and devotion to the arduous process of attaining the Olympic medal makes its attainment uplifting and edifying to the national psyche. But when the attainment process is cut short through the import of ready-to-deliver athletes, it cuts down the amount of uplift and edification and also short changes our national psyche. Permanent or not, there is no pride in realizing that competition at the highest level can be bought rather than nurtured.

The scorn poured on our efforts to erect artificial edifices is not due to them being artificial but due to them being disconnected from the hopes and wishes of the people.

Dr Yik likens our foreign born athletes to his foreigner professors who have nurtured and trained him well. This is a mistaken association. If our government had imported foreigner doctors to do Dr Yik’s job instead of foreigner professors to train Dr Yik, Dr Yik would never have become the doctor that he is today. Dr Yik should therefore be mindful of the difference between the foreigner coach who helps mold champions out of Singaporeans and the foreign born athlete who competes on behalf of native Singaporeans. The former helps native Singaporeans while the latter substitutes for native Singaporeans.

Dr Yik says that once a winning sporting tradition has been established, native Singaporeans will stand on the podiums. We didn’t need a winning sporting tradition for Mr Tan Howe Liang to stand on the podium. The win also did not inspire a winning sporting tradition. Similarly, employing foreign born athletes to win us a few medals may not necessarily inspire a winning sporting tradition.

Dr Yik disagrees with Mr Ong’s suggestion to pump more money into sports facilities as he feels that Singapore is already well endowed with first rate public gyms, courts, pools and tracks. Dr Yik is mistaken. According to the 9 Jun 2012 Straits Times report “12 more schools open sports halls to public” more schools have opened up their sports facilities for public use to cope with demand. The report also says that some badminton enthusiasts have to book their courts one month in advance and that sports facilities are typically oversubscribed during the evening peak periods on weekends. So Mr Ong’s concern is not without basis.

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