Thursday 18 June 2015

SEA Games 2015 Closing Ceremony

Friendship the biggest winner at the Games
By Rohit Brijnath And Chua Siang Yee, The Straits Times, 17 Jun 2015

OUT there in Kallang a flame was extinguished last night, but maybe a stronger spirit for sport now flares within this nation. The SEA Games, which closed last night to music and fireworks, was a success because this nation vocally and visibly embraced it.

Even as athletes dazzled us - such as nine-year-old Malaysian Aiden Yoong Hanifah who won a water-ski bronze - it is public enthusiasm which sustained this Games. The National Stadium was almost full for the football final and Singapore was not even playing.

Athletes had to be delighted for performing is even more pleasing when there is a crowd to acknowledge effort and applaud skill. One might say it was a team effort.

In his Facebook post, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong congratulated Team Singapore athletes for their outstanding performances, but also added: "I saw crowds showing up to cheer on our athletes. I also saw the many officials and volunteers making sure everything ran smoothly.

"Thank you to the organisers, participants, volunteers, and all the fans who have made this such a memorable Games."

Singapore's athletes rode their home advantage to a record 259 medals, 84 of them gold, many won in the Singapore Sports Hub.

This was a Games in Singapore but not only for Singapore. Thailand topped the medal table with 95 golds and fittingly medals were won by every one of the 11 nations. In the arena, athletes wept and an Indonesian footballer bent down to console a defeated Singaporean. In the stands, a group of visiting fans, each carrying one letter, spelt out a sign that simply and profoundly read: FRIEND.

Even as we partitioned ourselves every day into gold, silver, bronze, this Games remains meaningful as a way to harmoniously gather a region.

In the midst of gaiety, we were shaken by the tragedy at Mount Kinabalu. Last night, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, who is also president of the Singapore National Olympic Council, read out from the last blog post by the pupils and teachers of Tanjong Katong Primary School.

Its title was "It's not the mountain we conquer but ourselves" and every athlete would agree: Not every competitor at the Games would win but each one was in search of their best selves.

No one found their finest form as fluently as swimmer Joseph Schooling, who won all his nine events. He said: "I always strive to be the best and I'm fortunate to have accomplished my goal."

Last night, competition had ceased and, in a sweet show of athletic brotherhood, all 11 countries walked in together as one vast contingent. President Tony Tan Keng Yam declared the Games closed and called upon the region's youth "to assemble two years later in Malaysia to celebrate the 29th edition of the Games".

Now the future beckons and Mr Tan Chuan-Jin sounded an optimistic note when he said "we will work closely together" with various sporting bodies "to see how best to provide the platforms for our athletes to excel".

Sport, after all, is endlessly testing and multiple challenges await Singapore. A public must continue to romance its sportspeople. And athletes must use the momentum the medals have given them and translate it into success on grander stages. One Games is over but the pursuit of excellence has no finish line.

Malaysia wants to mine most golds in 2017
KL hopes to build on what S'pore has done to ramp up entertainment value
By Chua Siang Yee and Clara Chong, The Straits Times, 17 Jun 2015

THEY finished fourth in the SEA Games medal standings this year, 33 golds behind leaders Thailand, who harvested 95.

But that has not stopped 2017 SEA Games hosts Malaysia from signalling their intention to claim top honours in two years' time.

Malaysian chef de mission Norza Zakaria told The Straits Times: "I think we have done extremely well this year. We wanted to surpass our previous medal haul of 43 in Myanmar, my own internal prediction was 50, so now we have far surpassed it.

"In 2017, we (are aiming) to be the champion in the medal table."

The country last hosted the SEA Games in 2001 when it topped the medal tally with 111 golds, eight ahead of Thailand.

Norza was impressed with Singapore's hosting, especially in the use of light and sound effects at competition venues. He said Malaysia would look to build on that in 2017.

"Singapore has been a great host and we will try to emulate it and do better, in terms of organisation... and also giving services to the countries which are participating," he added.

Last night, at the SEA Games closing ceremony, Malaysia assumed the mantle of hosts.

Tunku Imran, president of the Olympic Council of Malaysia, received the SEA Games Federation flag from Singapore's Minister for Social and Family Development and Singapore National Olympic Council president Tan Chuan-Jin before handing it to Mr Khairy Jamaluddin, Malaysia's Youth and Sports Minister.

The capacity crowd was then treated to a performance titled Diversity In Motion.

Arifwaran Shaharuddin, director and choreographer of the segment, said he hoped the performance will inspire the nation to excel at the next Games.

He said: "The Malaysian athletes have exceeded expectations in terms of the number of gold medals, and we hope the next Games they will do the same, and bring the country together through sport."

Interview with MediaCorp "Today at the Games", on thoughts about Sea Games 2015. #SEAGames2015 #CelebrateTheExtraordinary #TeamSingapore #OurTeamSG
Posted by Tan Chuan-Jin on Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Let's not wait another 22 years to host SEA Games
By Marc Lim, Sports Editor, The Straits Times, 17 Jun 2015

THE defining moments of the Singapore SEA Games were not the record-breaking feats in the swimming pool or on the running track.

They were the occasions of national pride and togetherness that the athletes inspired at the 28th Games, which drew to a close last night. And the moments were all the more special for being unplanned and unexpected.

Who would have thought that a broken PA system during the playing of Majulah Singapura at the victory ceremony for the women's 4x200m freestyle relay would result in the SEA Games becoming the hottest item on social media?

The video of spectators at a packed OCBC Aquatic Centre picking up where the faulty system left off and singing the national anthem with gusto touched the hearts of both swimmers and thousands of others.

The Straits Times article about the heartfelt moment has been shared more than 69,000 times, and counting, on Facebook and Twitter. The video of the victory ceremony, posted by Sport Singapore on YouTube, has been viewed more than 330,000 times.

Contrast that number to the 5,000 views the Singapore men's 4x200m freestyle relay got for their race and you can see why that was an anomaly.

Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, who was presenting the gold medals to the four swimmers, described the moment as one of the highlights of a "stunning" Games that have "rallied and lifted us".

Recalled Mr Goh, who was Prime Minister the last time Singapore hosted the Games in 1993: "They were on the podium singing our national anthem and watching the Singapore flag being raised. Then the audio system broke down.

"Hardly missing a heartbeat, the Singaporeans in the stands continued with an a capella rendition. That was Singapore. That was the SEA Games spirit."

By now, many Singaporeans would also have seen the footage of silat fighter Muhammad Nur Alfian Juma'en breaking down as he sang the national anthem after a hard-fought win in the men's tanding F Class final.

His gold was the only win for silat - a win that mattered greatly to the sport, the fans and him.

As one comment on ST's Facebook read: "We cried with you."

In just two weeks, the Games have managed to bring this country closer than it has been for a while, bridging divides over issues that range from freedom of speech to gay rights. While the Games were on, it was like National Day every day, for 12 days straight. That was something only sport - which cuts across age, gender, race and social boundaries - could do.

Social media, so often the medium of choice for vitriolic messages, had, more often than not, good things to say about the Games.

Yes, to a large extent, the feel-good factor was generated by Team Singapore's outstanding performance. The final medal haul included a stunning 84 golds, far exceeding the previous best of 50 at the 1993 Singapore Games.

Although certain events were introduced to boost Singapore's medal haul, this was not the Mic-key Mouse Games. Swimmer Joseph Schooling clocked some world-class times while Malaysia's and Vietnam's gymnasts posted scores that would have stood out on the world stage.

One of the best parts of the Games was seeing Singaporeans go out and support not just gold medal favourites but also unfancied athletes like national sprinter Shanti Pereira, who delighted the country with her surprise win in the women's 200m track final. Not many among the 10,000 who turned up at the National Stadium to watch her expected a gold for Singapore in the event and so victory, when it came, was all the sweeter.

Some 22 years separated the last Singapore SEA Games in 1993 and this year's. My appeal is that we not wait another 22 years to play host once more.

There will always be arguments against hosting such a costly event. With a price tag of $324.5 million, would it not have been better to channel the money elsewhere, such as social welfare?

But perhaps the better question to ask is whether the investment was a worthy one. And in the case of the 2015 SEA Games, the answer is surely yes.

The harvest of 84 golds was a record, heralding a new era for Singapore sport. It was not only the usual suspects like swimming and sailing that delivered, but also sports like synchronised swimming and rhythmic gymnastics, which saw Singaporeans win their first golds. A total of 18 sports contributed to the bumper haul, another record.

But success was not confined to the sporting arenas.

Sales numbers at Kallang Wave Mall saw new highs, and businesses at Raffles City also saw hikes of 20 to 30 per cent. But it is arguably the intangibles that Singapore most benefited from.

Singapore marathoner Ashley Liew's decision to wait for his fellow runners to rejoin him on the right route, after they had mistakenly taken a detour, did more for the teaching of fair play than any physical education lesson could. His first instinct was not to capitalise on his competitors' mistake but rather, to make sure sportsmanship prevailed.

No fewer than three ministers praised him, with Foreign Affairs and Law Minister K. Shanmugam congratulating Liew on Facebook for "making us proud, as Singaporeans".

The anti-foreign talent sentiment never really caught fire at this year's Games as only 14 of the 84 golds won came from naturalised citizens.

In an era when the cost of hosting a major multinational, multi- event sports extravaganza has skyrocketed - the 2014 Asian Games in Incheon cost US$1.62 billion (S$2.1 billion) while next year's Rio Olympics are set to cost US$12 billion - the SEA Games represent an attractive substitute.

A nation committed to growing a sporting culture should always start with baby steps, and the SEA Games are ideal to nurture young sports talents and to market sport to the masses. At these Games, the winners were not just the 402 gold medallists, of whom more than 100 were Singaporean. Singapore, as a nation, also won.

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Singapore a 'very generous host'
Malaysia aim to top 2017 Games medal tally, top official says they will focus on their strong sports but will be fair
By Clara Chong, The Straits Times, 2 Jul 2015

Singapore may have won a record 84 golds in last month's SEA Games to finish second in the medal table among 11 nations. But secretary-general of the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) Sieh Kok Chi said that the hosts were "very generous" in giving away golds.

However, as his country prepare to host the next edition of the biennial Games in 2017, he said Malaysia will not be as hospitable as Singapore - who were pipped to overall top spot by Thailand's 95 golds.

"We will not be giving out free golds, and of course (we will) focus on sports which we are strong in," said Sieh of the Malaysia Games, which will be held in Selangor, Sabah and Sarawak.

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Posted by The Straits Times on Wednesday, July 1, 2015

He told The Straits Times: "It is funny how Singapore included sports like traditional boat race (dragon boat), where Singapore won no golds at all."

Thailand captured five out of the eight golds in the sport. Indonesia took two and Myanmar one.

"We intend to completely remove or cut down on the number of disciplines in rowing, canoeing and traditional boat race, since there have been no substantial records of success in Malaysia.

"We will also learn from Singapore. For example, for sports such as volleyball, we will only have one discipline and not include beach volleyball.

"But, of course, we will definitely try and make everyone happy and of course - not be unsporting in any aspect."

Such a move will be necessary if Malaysia are to attain their goal of topping the table, which they last did as hosts in 2001 with 111 golds.

Malaysia's chef de mission Norza Zakaria had told The Straits Times during the Games: "In 2017, we are aiming to be the champion in the medal table."

With the final list of sports still under review, Malaysia's performance for each sport is still under technical evaluation.

The final list will be known only in September or October.

Early indicators point to the fact that Malaysia intend to reduce the number of sailing events the next time round. The Singapore Games featured 20 events, with the hosts topping the sailing medal tally with 10 golds.

However, there will be little change to the programme for the mainstays such as athletics and swimming, which are compulsory sports.

Sieh said: "It is not easy for one country to monopolise, considering the number of events.

"We will of course have all the Olympic disciplines for aquatics, such as water polo, synchronised swimming and diving."

He added that the total number of sports for 2017 will be around the same as the Singapore Games, which stood at 36, with 402 golds at stake.

He said: "It is important for Malaysia to do well - just like how Singapore did.

"When the host nation does well, the atmosphere will be great.

"Singaporeans rose to the occasion and cheered the athletes on when they performed well. We need to do well to promote sports - one of the goals of the Games - and give everyone a chance to shine in their respective sports."


The sports which could be axed by 2017 SEA Games hosts Malaysia as they bid to become the top medal-winning nation ahead of Thailand:


While Singapore were the top nation at last month's Games with seven golds and five silvers, Thailand were not far back with four golds, six silvers and a bronze. Malaysia failed to win a single medal.


Thailand swept all four golds in Singapore.


While Malaysia won a gold, Thailand were dominant, taking eight of the 10 golds at stake.


Indonesia and Vietnam were the top nations, each winning eight golds. Thailand bagged two golds while Malaysia clinched a bronze.


The Thais swept 14 golds while Malaysia won two. The 2017 hosts could cut down the number of shooting events to curb the Thai dominance.


The Thais netted six of the seven golds.


Thailand harvested five out of the eight golds, while Malaysia failed to win a medal.

Sports menu for all chosen for Games
By Clara Chong, The Straits Times, 2 Jul 2015

SINGAPORE'S chef de mission (CDM) Nicholas Fang says the selection of sports for the 28th SEA Games was done with the aim of promoting sport in general, and not just with winning medals in mind.

He was responding to remarks made by Sieh Kok Chi, secretary general of the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM), who had chided the Republic for being "too generous" to their regional rivals, particularly Thailand, who topped the medal table at the recently concluded event.

The Thais bagged 95 gold medals, 11 more than hosts Singapore, who were second.

Fang said: "We try and look for the best situation for everyone. Some events such as sailing favoured us, and we do try to push a bit harder, but our ultimate aim is to help in the growth of sports in South-east Asia, to ensure that no country is being shut out."

Co-CDM Tan Eng Liang explained how the organisers went about deciding the menu on offer.

He said: "We first got approval for 30 out of the 36 sports. They belonged to the categories of compulsory sports such as aquatics and athletics, Olympic sports and traditional sports that were not in the Olympics but played before at SEA Games level.

"For the remaining six sports, we took in the requests of other countries. For instance, for petanque, 10 countries lobbied for it, and even though we were not strong in it (Singapore did not win any medals), we still had to add it in.

"Boxing and tennis were also among the six which were popular among the other countries and even though we did not fare well in them, we had to be fair in our selection of sports and also take into consideration (other nations') opinions."

Ng Ser Miang, the International Olympic Committee (IOC) member from Singapore who is also its finance commission chair, agreed with Fang.

He said: "These Games should showcase the true spirit of sports and also try to inculcate the right values."

However, he felt that a balance between traditional and Olympic sports is still required in the final decision of which sports to include.

He told The Straits Times in a telephone interview from Norway: "The SEA Games provide a platform for young athletes to upgrade their standards and also make friends with those in the SEA countries.

"It is a friendship Games but also one where athletes are doing their best for their country, family and also themselves.

"There needs to be a balance of both traditional and Olympic sports as local sports are important to our people and the country as well.

"The SEA Games should help athletes improve and do better at the Asian and Olympic level.

"However, we cannot ignore the need for traditional sports that are unique to us."

His remarks were echoed by fellow IOC member Rita Subowo of Indonesia, who was also present at the Games.

While she declined to comment on Sieh's remarks, she too urged for more Olympic disciplines to be featured in future Games.

She added: "I hope to see more Olympic sports being hosted instead of traditional ones, especially since the South-east Asian countries lack medals in the Olympics.

"This will serve as a good stepping stone for the region.

"We also need to try to include popular sports in every country... popular sports in Indonesia such as beach volleyball and karate were left out."

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