Celebrating Singapore’s Olympic Heritage – Speech by SNOC President
SPEECH BY MR TAN CHUAN-JIN, SPEAKER OF PARLIAMENT AND PRESIDENT OF THE SINGAPORE NATIONAL OLYMPIC COUNCIL AT THE LAUNCH OF PROJECT 0812: THE INSIDE STORY OF SINGAPORE’S JOURNEY TO OLYMPIC GLORY AND SCREENING OF WHEN THE STARS ALIGN ON SATURDAY, 9 DECEMBER 2017, 11.00AM AT THE SINGAPORE SPORTS INSTITUTE
Friends and colleagues from the SNOC and Olympians Singapore
Ladies and gentlemen
It’s my pleasure to be here this morning in the company of our Olympians and friends and colleagues in sports.
As we come to the tail end of a year that also marks the SNOC’s 70th anniversary, I am delighted to share two meaningful projects commemorating Singapore’s Olympic history with you.
By now, we are all familiar with the story of Mr Tan Howe Liang. His journey of winning Singapore’s first Olympic medal in Rome still strikes a deep chord in the hearts of Singaporeans. For many years, 48 to be exact, we yearned for repeated success on the Olympic stage as a nation. There were two near misses at the Sydney and Athens Games when Jing Junhong and Li Jiawei finished fourth on both occasions.
In 2006, the SNOC mooted an idea of a more effective push towards winning at the Games. Spearheaded by DPM Teo Chee Hean, Mr Ng Ser Miang and Dr Tan Eng Liang, all hands were on deck for this mission. From government ministries and agencies such as the then-MCYS, Mindef, MOE, Singapore Sports Council to the NSAs, there was strong unity and a keen spirit of collaboration. The athletes and their families knew the importance of this quest and dedicated themselves wholly to it.
The unified efforts resulted in milestones in Singapore sports we have never encountered before at the 2008 Olympic Games. Shooter Lee Wung Yew became the first from his sport to qualify on merit, six sailors qualified in four events – the most ever, swimmer Tao Li, albeit requiring minimum support from Project 0812, became the first Singaporean to make an Olympic swimming final. Even a young Joseph Schooling and his family were sowing the seeds of an Olympic dream in the stands of the Beijing National Aquatics Centre. Paddlers Li Jiawei, Wang Yuegu and Feng Tianwei went on to win a silver and two bronze medals at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games.
The legacy of Project 0812 has raised the bar of Singapore sports. Incremental support for high performance sports in recent years have generated many positive returns for our nation. This story of astute strategy and execution of ideas and plans accompanied by an unwavering desire by all stakeholders involved, ought to be shared with those who have an interest in the development of our sporting landscape.
My appreciation goes out to the officials and athletes for recounting their experience and for their willingness to contribute to the documentation of the book – Project 0812: The inside story of Singapore’s journey to Olympic glory. I would like to thank the author, Peh Shing Huei, for piecing together the events of this momentous journey and for creating an engaging prose which readers would find hard to put down. I would also like to thank the IOC, Olympic Solidarity, the NSAs, and the athletes and officials who were involved in Project 0812.
In the second project, When the Stars Align, we go back at least five decades to hear the stories of our pioneer women Olympians – Tang Pui Wah, Mary Klass and Janet Jesudason. I had the opportunity to catch the first screening of the documentary at a preview organised by Honour Singapore in July and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.
Their stories captured the challenges the octogenarians faced in the 1950s and 1960s, when the pursuit of high performance sports was almost unheard of. In those times of austerity, they persevered to chase their dreams, made it to the Olympics and continued to play a larger role in their communities to inspire the younger generations.
This endearing documentary could not have been possible without the passion of filmmakers Brenda Er and Jasmine Teh. I understand that they were rejected thrice by one of their subjects but persisted with their conviction. I am delighted that this is a ground-up initiative spurred by the impact of our athletes’ own stories. This is evident of the kind of bearing our Olympians have on the community. I would like to acknowledge the help of Olympian Mr Kesavan Soon who helped to bring this idea to fruition, who also helped to persuade Pui Wah, Mary and Janet to share their stories.
Both projects reflected the journeys of our athletes and sport fraternity in different eras who faced challenges in not quite the same circumstances but yet managed to overcome the odds for a greater good. These stories of our past are important for future generations to remember, as there were many before them who paved the way for later generations to succeed.
The SNOC hopes to continue to play an active role in promoting and documenting the Olympic movement in Singapore, and welcome you to be part of our journey.
We hope you will have an enjoyable time today. Thank you.