Hosting the Youth Olympic Games: The Pioneers from Singapore

Hosting the Youth Olympic Games: The Pioneers from Singapore

Nick Aplin (National Institute of Education, Singapore)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-7527-8.ch013
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Abstract

Athens 1896, Chamonix 1924, Singapore 2010, and Innsbruck 2012 represent the four major games innovations introduced by the International Olympic Committee (IOC). Being seen as an efficient and gracious host of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG) signified a growing reputation that enhanced Singapore's global status. The interactions and interdependencies between state institutions, international associations, private bodies, and the people themselves served to reinforce existing sentiments that Singapore was not only successfully integrating sporting initiatives into the broader strategy for nation building but also sending out a resounding message to the rest of the world. This chapter examines the motivations, organisational processes, and linked issues that helped to establish Singapore as a country capable of creating an Olympic event and simultaneously marketing the Singapore brand. Negative financial and logistic issues could not overshadow the benefits that emerged to enhance the regional and global identity of the small island state.
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Background: A Small Nation With A Voice

The task of generating community as well as state and commercial support for the YOG called for a close liaison between the IOC, the Ministry of Community Development and Sports (MCYS), the Singapore Sports Council (SSC), the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC), other ministerial bodies and officials, ISFs, corporate partners and a huge volunteer force drawn from the general public. The Singapore Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee (SYOGOC) was the body assigned the task of coordinating what would be a pioneering initiative and the latest of the IOC’s innovations most closely associated with the tenure of IOC President Jacques Rogge.

Wong (2011) examined the struggles that confronted the IOC in conceptualising the YOG. Issues such as human rights, attempts to provide an antidote to obesity and limiting the scale of world sports events emerged. The objectives of this chapter are to investigate the ways in which Singapore aimed to capitalise on its role as host to support its own sporting aspirations, whilst simultaneously supporting the IOC’s vision. A most deliberate and pragmatic motive was to focus world attention on a small country seeking to reinforce its identity as a first-world economy: one in which sport was playing an increasingly significant role. From the Singapore perspective, the YOG was a stepping stone on the path to enhanced global recognition. The idea to attract the attention of young people to the philosophies of the Olympic Movement was a short-term objective. Singapore attempted to accommodate sporting excellence within a context of cultural values education in a way that was to prove difficult to justify and sustain. The success or otherwise of the venture could only be achieved in a way that recognised the potential for conflict and resolution. This chapter identifies and examines a number of the sport-related, political, financial and logistic issues that emerged as Singapore strove to create a globally recognisable event: one which would inspire the nation and the sporting world with spectacle; one which would encourage young people to adopt more benevolent and universalistic values; and one which would establish a lasting legacy based on Olympism. The YOG in Singapore was not a stand-alone event, but one that took its place as a contributor to the blossoming sporting ecosystem. The ongoing discourse on Olympic–related issues and the evolution of the Singapore sporting culture provides the main set of reference points.

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