YOG has arrived in Singapore!

Tomorrow marks the start of the inaugural Youth Olympics Games in tiny host nation Singapore. As a Singaporean, I feel both proud and anxious as the games progress over the next 12 days to end on 26th August.

The Olympic torch relay as it passed through downtown Singapore.

I am anxious because I have no idea if we are capable of hosting this whole event successfully. Many things hang in balance, foremost of which is our reputation. South Africa has just concluded a surprisingly well-organised World Cup, against many punters’ expectations. Not bad for a Third World country still rife with internal conflicts and poverty.

Here comes Singapore, small little dot at the end of the Malayan Peninsula who gained First World status in a matter of four decades and supposedly one of the most progressive countries in the world. So how well will we handle this event in light of the World Cup? I can only hold my breath for the next 2 weeks and pray that we do not have a repeat episode of floods around the island.

I was not overly supportive of hosting the YOG. To me, I thought it was just another event like the F1 night race to attract crowds to Singapore and boost tourism. While it was nice to see our country gain the attention of international media, I didn’t like the way our roads were being worn out and the guzzling of fuel by those speed machines. I mean really if one is not a F1 fan, how did the event help the locals?

Having recently read one reporter’s experience as she accompanied the Zimbabwe football youth team from Changi Airport to the Olympic village on NTU campus, my mind was changed. I read about how impressed these youths were about our country, about its orderliness and cleanliness and learning that this was the first time they have left their country, I felt surprisingly touched.

Here we are always complaining this and that about how Singapore can be better managed but it glaringly exposes our island mentality. We will never begin to appreciate how wonderful home is until we know what it is like to live in a country that is lacking in many of the things we take for granted here.

I wish more people around the world are able to benefit from having access to shelter, food, clean water, freedom from oppression, education and a social security system, while not perfect, seeks to take care of its citizens. I do hope that these youths who will form the future of their country will learn the good things of Singapore and bring them home to instill them. Likewise how we need to travel out of our comfort zones and experience what the world has to offer us and to make a difference.

I read about the rising unemployment among the youths in US and Europe and I feel sorry for them. It is so sad to see our younger generation suffering in a poorer economy and more fragile environment because of the selfish decisions made by their predecessors. No wonder they are such a bitter generation. Hopefully we can see some spark in these youth Olympians who have descended on our shores and remind us that we need to leave a better legacy behind for them.

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