The Point of the YOG
While hanging out between basketball games this afternoon, talk of Singapore hosting the Youth Olympic Games led to the favourite Singaporean pastime of government bashing. Car owners were upset that despite having paid their road tax, they still had to give way to official YOG vehicles or risk a fine. Others were shocked at the incredulous amount of money that went into this (“3x over the budget!”).
And then the important question was asked: “What’s the whole f—-ing point?”
I must admit, I wasn’t a whole lot enthusiastic about us bidding to host the Youth Olympic Games two years back. It felt like the consolation prize; like eating at the kiddie table. It wasn’t until I saw Selwyn’s photo that the possibility that we might be on the cusp of something special crossed my mind.
When I saw how the staff and students in my school came together for the the arrival of the YOG torch at our campus, I became pretty sure that the games would play a part in the building of the nation, especially in the hearts of the younger generation. This was most evident when we watched the Singapore Flag raised to a stunning rendition of the Majulah Singapura.
I’m actually glad that we’ve chosen to host the YOG instead of the actual Olympic Games. There is so much innocence in youth, and when it comes to children, we are better able to put aside the primal urge to place competition as the sole driving force for the games. Instead, education, cultural exchange and friendship lie at its heart. There is no medal tally for the YOG, though I’m sure enterprising newsmakers will quickly remedy that. The message to the youth athletes so far has been that they should “have fun”.
Maybe we won’t see an acceptable ROI on the games. Maybe it’s inconvenienced us. But there are many intangible goods - unquantifiable - that have come out of Singapore hosting the YOG. A sense of national pride on the international stage, a worldwide unity in the nurturing of the next generation, a temporary reprieve from the strict pragmatism that binds our island state. Yes, it’s probably an illusion, but a reprieve nonetheless.
I’m not saying that the organising committee shouldn’t be transparent about the over-expenditure. I’m saying that if we had once bemoaned the fact that the government clings on to GDP as its key indicator of how well citizens are being taken care of, maybe we shouldn’t be holding on to ROI so tightly either.