Sport Singapore, don't be like an ugly beauty queen

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by Michael Y.P. Ang

The Singapore Sports Council (SSC), a government agency formed in 1973, is seeking to modernise itself through an image makeover. Announcing this on its ActiveSG website last week, the SSC says it will call itself Sport Singapore and use a new corporate logo from next month.

More important than a rebranding exercise, the SSC’s actions and policies must undergo a real and significant change.

SSC Chief Executive Officer Lim Teck Yin said: “We will embrace an idea that we represent a much larger community, we are not an entity just for ourselves.”

Is that idea merely in one’s head, or will the SSC put it into practice when dealing with all stakeholders of Singapore sport?

Perhaps unbeknown to the SSC chief, his Corporate Communications and Relations staff recently gave The Independent Singapore the snub. Even after three emails to two senior staff members, including one to the Director, seeking a progress update on the SSC’s plans for winter sports, there was no response.

Does the SSC seem more accustomed to norms in the 1970s or the 21st century? Long gone are the days when Singaporeans turn only to traditional, mainstream media for news reports and analyses. This is 2014. New media do exist.

Sport Singapore should not be like a beauty queen with ugly behaviour – one who is all made up, dressed to the nines but is clueless about etiquette and treats individuals within the community she represents, differently, depending on their background.

In its rebranding exercise, the SSC should examine more closely what is wrong with its own actions and policies.

Huge crack in athlete-support system

38-year-old Joan Liew, a two-time heavyweight gold-medallist at the Asian Women’s Bodybuilding Championships (2000 and 2002), is among a select group of Singaporeans featured in the Singapore Book of Records.

Last month, Joan emerged as champion in the Women’s Physique (Tall) category at the Arnold Amateur IFBB International Championship. (IFBB is the acronym for International Federation of Bodybuilding and Fitness.)

The vast majority of Singaporean athletes will never be a continental or world champion, but Joan belongs to the much-preferred minority group.

Shockingly, according to a Yahoo Singapore report on 21 March, “in all her 20 years of bodybuilding,” Joan “has never once been acknowledged by theSSC”!

Joan told Yahoo that although she receives encouragement and well wishes from fans, she gets none of that from the government agency tasked to promote sport: “I hear about sports excellence all the time, but I’ve never received a single cent from the government in my pursuit of this sport.”

Meanwhile in Parliament, 10 days before the Yahoo report was released, our de facto sports minister Lawrence Wong was delivering a speech, titled “Building a cultural city and sporting nation”.

The minister said: “All … that we are working towards won’t count for much if Singaporeans are not convinced to participate. Nor can our Team Singapore athletes truly shine without Singaporeans to believe in them, and to cheer them on.”

Notice the disconnect? The governors of Singapore sport and Joan may live on the same tiny island we call home and are, directly or indirectly, involved in competitive sport. Yet, they appear to be worlds apart.

Singaporean Joan has been passionately participating in bodybuilding for two decades. She has shone, very brightly, for our nation. Singaporeans believe in her and cheer her on. But what is the government doing to support her, other than talking about building a sporting nation?