Monday, August 18, 2008

Sports: Singapore's Silver Medal at the Olympics

I congratulate the team on doing well. However in my mind, as a nation, this is still a hollow victory. The three key members of the team Wang Yuegu, Feng Tianwei and Li Jiawei became Singaporeans as a deliberate action on the part of the Singapore Government under the "Foreign Sports Talent Scheme" to train and compete for Singapore specifically for their Table Tennis skills.

Here's an interesting quote from the article about Foreign Sports Talent:

STTA president Lee Bee Wah said: "It doesn't mean that we should look at them [foreign-born table tennis players] differently because they're not born and brought up in Singapore. The important thing is that they have embraced Singapore and want to be a part of it. And they wanted so badly to win a medal for our country. We should not be harping on where they are born. I hope mindsets change."

"I hope mindsets change" Ha! I hope the official mindset changes! I have nothing against foreign talent. However, when we trumpet our victories through deliberate and specific effort to import individuals (please note that these sportsmen/women were specifically enticed to come and be Singapore citizens and not a general call for skilled sports persons to apply for Singapore citizenship, which would in my opinion, be a palatable approach) in order to win competitions, all these victories are to me just empty victories.

This reminded me of how back when I was in Raffles Institution, sport ECAs such as Basketball and Soccer were simply eliminated because they were non-performing. Whatever happened to sports because people enjoyed the game? Whatever happened to nurturing interest and talent in a sport?

That is the kind of nurturing "mindset" I would like to see: Putting resources into sports for people interested in them, even for foreigners, to help nurture real talent. Right now, we are just going to individuals who have the skills and asking "Hey, you look like you're capable! How about becoming a Singaporean?". I remember how hard I laughed when then-PM Goh Chok Tong suggested we could get into the Soccer World Cup by 2050 (?) ... by buying all the necessary talent ... dream on!

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