By Jose Raymond
Congratulations to all of Singapore’s medallists at the recently concluded Asian Games in Jakarta. All of you have helped to keep the national flag flying high at the Asiad.
Singapore’s chef de mission Lee Wung Yew hailed the overall performance and called it a “an excellent performance”, while Singapore Sports Institute’s Head of High Performance for Sport and Athlete Life Richard Gordon said that Singapore had performed “lower than our initial expectations.”
Who is more accurate?
Singapore finished in 18th place in the overall medal standings at the Asian Games in Jakarta.
Our athletes ended up with four golds, four silvers and 14 bronze medals from nine sports, which is a dip from 2014. One of these gold medals came from contract bridge, which is not an Olympic sport.
Based on medal standings, this is Singapore’s worst showing in the final medal tally at the Asian Games in 20 years since 1998, when we finished in 17th spot.
A look at the Commonwealth Games 2018 results also indicate a dip in performances, as Singapore gathered the least number of medals in 20 years since the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur, when we returned with no medals.
In 2008, the Government released a Sporting Culture Committee report with a set of targets and recommendations. (See report below)
Among these targets were for Singapore to maintain our position among the top 10 sporting nation in Asia. While this is vague, it can be argued that the Asian Games is a fair gauge of that target since it is a continental wide competition for Asia.
Other targets set were for spectatorship to be built up at live sporting events and to attract more volunteers into sports, attain 66% sports participation by 2015 and have the sports sector contribute $2 billion to the Gross Domestic Product by 2015.
These are some points to ponder.
1. It is quite clear from the 2008 Sporting Culture Committee Report that the Government has set itself targets for sports performance. However, there has been a steady dip in performance at the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games and our final position in the medal standings at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta has been Singapore’s worst performance in 20 years. What has caused this dip, and more importantly, what is being done to address the slide.
2. The 2008 Sporting Culture Committee report set a target of being a top 10 Asian nation in sports. While it does not state that being a top 10 Asian nation equates to performance at the Asian Games, is there any other measure which the Government uses to gauge its performance over time, vis a vis the target put forward through the Sporting Culture Committee Report? What is the gauge of its performance at the continental level in keeping with the target set at the 208 Sporting Culture Committee Report?
3. Also, if the Sporting Culture Committee report states that Singapore sets to be a top 10 nation in Asia, why are our political appointees coy about setting performance targets for our contingent? Shouldn’t we be aiming high and shouldn’t motivation come from the top? Has there been a deviation in the strategy and targets compared to what was presented to the public in 2008?
4. If there is indeed a shift in the strategy, then what is the focus of the government when it comes to high performance sports and its subsequent deliverables as a result of our public spending towards the sports sector?
5. When was funding approved and disbursed to our NSAs and athletes which needed to prepare for the Asian Games 2018?
The overall standings are an indication that Singapore is slipping behind in our sporting standards and we need to address what’s causing the slide. While the result at one major event may not be enough to draw a conclusion, it is worth noting that Singapore performed worse at both the Asian Games and Commonwealth Games this year compared to 2014.
For a country which strives to be number one in as many aspects as possible, it is unbecoming that we do not see the elephant in the room in that our overall sports performance seems to be headed south.
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