Make no mistake – the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) are going to be big.
As Singapore prepares to host the debut of the Youth Olympics, there’s no doubt that the world has its eye on our island nation. But behind all the competitions and medals, do you really know what it takes to put together something of this calibre?
We get the insider’s view from Mr Goh Kee Nguan, Chief Executive Officer, Singapore Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee.
We know there are a lot of logistics involved in organizing something of this size. Just how many people are involved in running the YOG?
We have about 550 staff, including contract staff and those on assignment from other agencies. Then there are 1,400 civil servants on short-term assignment and 20,000 volunteers in over 45 functional areas in the Singapore Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee (SYOGOC).
From the public sector, there’s also another 2,300 Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) personnel involved in the Opening and Closing Ceremonies. Then there’s 600 personnel from the SAF Transport Command, helping to ensure transportation goes smoothly. The Ministry of Education, Ministry of Health, Singapore Police Force, Singapore Civil Defence Force, Infocomm Development Authority, National Institute of Education/Nanyang Technological University, Land Transport Authority, Immigrations & Checkpoints Authority of Singapore, National Heritage Board and National Arts Council are some of the other agencies that are working closely with SYOGOC to deliver a successful Singapore 2010.
What do you hope the YOG will achieve in Singapore?
Our vision is ‘Inspiring Youth, Sporting Singapore’. We want Singapore 2010 to involve the youth of the world and inspire them through an integrated sport, culture and education experience to embrace, embody and express the Olympic values of Excellence, Friendship and Respect. In living these values, the youth will also inspire all those around them to do the same. We hope this leads to more Singaporeans playing sports, pursuing Excellence in sport competition and extending the spirit of sportsmanship to express the values of Friendship and Respect in all spheres of life.
With the introduction of the games, three new National Sports Associations (NSAs) – for Modern Pentathlon, Wrestling and Handball – were set up soon after Singapore won the bid to host Singapore 2010 to prepare our local youth athletes for the Games. Some of the NSAs, like the Wrestling Federation of Singapore, conducted workshops in schools and at community events to recruit trainees and increase public awareness of the sport.
Existing NSAs have also risen to the challenge and trained youth athletes to participate in the Games. There are 130 Singaporean athletes competing for the YOG.
During Games-time, youths can also watch the sports competitions at venues located in various parts of Singapore. We hope that watching other youths compete at the Games will also inspire them to take up new sports and make sports part of their lifestyle.
The sports competition venues – which are existing community sports facilities – have been upgraded and the community will be able to enjoy these facilities as part of the legacy of the Games. For the Games, we have also trained a group of sport presenters. For those keen in a career in sports commentary, this may be just the catalyst to their professional career.
The experience of hosting Singapore 2010 will also develop Singapore’s abilities to host major sporting events in future. As part of hosting the games, we have also trained 20,000 volunteers in preparation for their Games-times roles. The training will benefit the volunteers and grow the volunteer pool that is available for future large-scale events held in Singapore.
We will also be seizing this once-in-a lifetime opportunity to raise the international profile of Singapore through the Journey of the Youth Olympic Flame in all five continents, and broadcasting the Games live to a worldwide audience. The value of YOG and Singapore’s exposure in local and international news coverage is estimated to be in excess of $86 million. This enhanced profile of Singapore will make us better known to the world at large, opening up opportunities for Singapore businesses and Singaporeans.
What sort of attendance is expected for YOG?
Ticket sales have been brisk with more than 160,000 tickets (or about 60 percent) of all the tickets already sold out. Of the 158 ticketed competition sessions at 16 competition venues (aside from the events at the National Sailing Centre and East Coast Park, which are free), tickets to many sessions of Basketball, Diving, Equestrian, Fencing, Modern Pentathlon, and Swimming are no longer available.
Tickets that are selling fast are Athletics and Gymnastics, with less than 100 tickets available for all sessions of Archery, Boxing, Handball, Shooting and Taekwondo. Each ticket purchased is accompanied by a Singapore 2010 DBS Visa Prepaid Companion Card.
Social media and the online landscape seem to play a big part of the publicity in YOG. Why did you decide to use these mediums?
Digital media is the most effective communication channel to reach out to a worldwide audience, regardless of time difference or geographical location. Many of the new media initiatives help to inform the world about the latest happenings for Singapore 2010, encourage youth-expression and participation, enhance inter-cultural friendship and celebrate world culture.
For example, the Million Deeds Challenge, a microsite of the Singapore 2010 website, allows youths worldwide to post deeds from their daily lives that express Excellence, Friendship and Respect, and share them with others. Designed to resemble a virtual Torch Relay, every deed posted will move the virtual Youth Olympic flame a step closer from Greece to Singapore.
Singapore 2010 also launched the WhyOhGee! youth microsite to engage the youths through interactive elements such as blogs, multimedia content and forums. It will also host up-to-date information, facts and trivia on the 26 Summer Youth Olympic sports as well as stories of sports personalities.
There’s even a special section for athletes coming for the Games to share their pictures and thoughts during the Games either directly through this website or through the Digital Concierge for Singapore 2010.
Another digital media initiative is the 3-D Singapore 2010 Virtual World. The Singapore 2010 Odyssey is a web-based interactive platform with activities for youths to learn about Olympic themes, sports and world culture. It also features the competition venues, the Youth Olympic Village, and the Games in a futuristic world set in 3010. Users will be able to create their own avatars, compete in games and learn more about the Youth Olympic Games.
During Games-time, youth athletes and officials will receive a Digital Concierge, a mobile personal digital assistant-based programme which will deliver real-time information and services to users.
How is the journey for the Olympic Flame decided?
The Youth Olympic Flame is travelling to one city in each of the five continents: Berlin, Germany, representing Europe; Dakar, Senegal, representing Africa; Mexico City, Mexico, representing the Americas; Auckland, New Zealand, representing Oceania; Seoul, Republic of Korea, representing Asia. Going to one city in each of the five continents is symbolic in representing the five Olympic Rings and connecting the youths of the five continents.
At each city, the Youth Olympic Flame will travel to iconic sights in the city, before ending the day with a city celebration. The people of each continent, especially the youth, will be invited to the Celebration City to celebrate the arrival of the Youth Olympic Flame to their continent.
The main considerations in the choice of the cities were that their vibrancy in sports, arts, music, fashion, technology and education is appealing and interesting to the youth of their respective continent. Other considerations are the city’s infrastructural support and available resources for organising the city celebration.
For example, Germany has a strong youth sports programme through German Sports Youth Organisation of the German Sports Confederation, and advocates the promotion of sports as a vehicle for youth development. Berlin, a city of designers, fashion moguls, photographers, architects and musicians prompted UNESCO to designate Berlin as a ‘City of Design’ in January 2006.
Senegal has one of the most active national sports scenes in West Africa, with Dakar having hosted the All Africa Games and several Africa Cup football (soccer) championships.
However, the Journey of the Youth Olympic Flame is a partnership between SYOGOC and the cities - it is not just a case of SYOGOC selecting the cities, but also that of the cities making the choice to be part of the Journey of the Youth Olympic Flame. It shows that the cities recognise the importance and significance of the Youth Olympic Flame and how it can promote the Olympic values to the international community and further the Olympic Movement.
There will be a six-day torch relay in Singapore. The Olympic torch relay is a once-in-a-lifetime event for the nation in which we feel all Singaporeans and visitors can be a part of. Having the torch relay over six days and through five community districts and the city provides the opportunity for more Singaporeans to get up close with the Youth Olympic Flame. Some 2,400 torchbearers will have the honour of carrying the first Youth Olympic Flame, which represents the Olympic Values of Excellence, Friendship and Respect.
With so much going on as part of the YOG, which are you looking forward to the most, and why?
I’m looking forward to seeing the hard work of my colleagues coming into fruition; from the venues, to the sports competition, to the cultural and education programmes, to the arrivals of the NOCs, IFs and IOC families as well as the many functional areas that we have been working on.
The best part of the YOG is how everyone has come together to be part of the Games: our workforce, the community, corporations, public service agencies, students, teachers, youth, athletes and officials. Everyone has a role in the success of the Games.
I’m also looking forward to seeing the athletes striving to do their best in the sport competitions and also their active participation in the Culture and Education Programme (CEP). We have provided world-class facilities for the young Olympians to perform to their best and also designed CEP activities for the athletes that aim to engage and inspire athletes to adopt and live by the Olympic Values of Excellence, Friendship and Respect, and to play active roles in their communities.
For more information, visit singapore2010.sg