Comments On The 2016 Olympics and Mediacorp’s Presentation…

Some closing comments on the 2016 Olympics and Mediacorp’s presentation… but first my thoughts and well wishes for your good health: PM Lee, rest well and get back in the pink of health in short order.

1. Much kudos need be credited to the host nation/city for safely and successfully staging the 2-week international sporting extravaganza. This the host has accomplished with only relatively minor cringeworthy incident(s) amidst a laundry list of potential woes and worries, from government in turmoil to body parts washing ashore the popular Copacabana Beach just prior to the game. (http://edition.cnn.com/2016/06/30/americas/rio-olympics-body-parts-found/) Indeed, woe betide those who chose to come to Rio was the caveat echoed by some before the game. So congrats to the host for pulling it off in spite of it all. But once this 2-week breather is over, reality of life returns to Brazilians.

2. This being my first viewing of the Olympics through the lens of Mediacorp, I have to say, Mediacorp merely did a pedestrian, perfunctory job. It went almost entirely on auto-pilot, relying wholly on the mercy of Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS). It could have better served the viewers at home by complementing OBS’s coverage with much more in-depth presentations in profile of our local Olympians. The daily update segment by Mediacorp’s point man Mark Richmond could have been more extensive in providing fuller, personal introduction of home athletes, showcasing their talents and respective sports on the world’s stage.

3. Ginormous plaudits of course are due to Singapore’s newly minted 21-year-old superstar; but Schooling’s athleticism and true mettle will be roundly tested in the next couple of years, all the more so in the next Olympics… let’s send him our best. Meanwhile, Feng Tianwei and teammates promise to redeem themselves for the nation in the next Tokyo Olympics; even top athletes can have off days.

4. In the wake of Singapore’s unprecedented Olympic gold, a sentiment among Singaporeans seems to be abounding as reflected in a netizen’s remark: “You buy an Olympic medal you divide the nation. You cultivate your own winner, you unite the nation.” But I beg to differ in spades on that. In Schooling’s case, at 14 he was already enrolled full-time in a foreign elite swimming prep school in the States. Per Asia Finance, the cost of minting this Olympic swimming champion is upwards of $1.3 million, not exactly the province of average-income families. And even with official blessings in funding and sponsorships, there is the perennial question on the ready pool of available ‘natural-born talents’. With a limited population base, Singapore will ever be hard pressed to find that appropriate, raw talent for world-class grooming — such are the cold, hard facts; Schooling may prove to be the outside exception here at home. Hence, I am all for the Foreign Sports Talent Scheme. But that it be implemented with a more balanced approach in terms of the total integration of the transplanted athlete lest it be seen controversial in its current rather Machiavellian form. For instance, the ultimate goal of being naturalized shouldn’t be just about being able to play for the national colors. The ultimate goal of the program should also be committed to more thoroughly integrating such athletic transplants into the society. And for the Chinese imported talents, this would mean for starters they should be learned to be bilingual as the nation prides herself to be, being able to handle press interviews beyond their mother tongue. The bottom line: there should be more imported talents not less to complement the local pool, say from diving to badminton and then some… there’s no going back here for Singapore or else be resigned to witnessing on the sideline, a very subdued, undramatic quadrennial sporting fiesta, the grandest of its kind, for which youth and adults alike yearn.

5. Lastly, I have to re-inject again a thread I started here at the beginning of this Olympics. I.e., is Singapore ready to adopt a national anthem in English yet or should we have to wait another 50 more years? … to do not just her athletes justice but the majority of Singaporeans as well. Regrettably, at the most historic sporting moment of the nation, the reaction of our golden superstar on the Olympic medal podium to the playing of our Majulah Singapura, leaves so much more to be desired — I would like to ask him in person how it would have affected him emotionally had it been sung in our common first language. Yes, I understand it would take politicians with gumption and ‘dengan semangat yang baru’ to be willing to open this up for debate. But I submit now is as good a time as any after 50 years of dismal conditioning of the National Anthem in an uncommon tongue for the overwhelming majority of Singaporeans.

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