The ideals, the scope & the history of the Singapore National Olympic Council

Through its ties with the International Olympic Committee, the Singapore National Olympic Council works to educate Singaporean athletes and the country’s many sports bodies on the real benefits of the Olympic sports model. In an age when athletes are under increasing pressure to win at any cost, the Olympic philosophy is more than mere rhetoric. The Olympic Movement reminds all stakeholders that sports must be governed by fair play and equal opportunity.

The SNOC provides leadership and financial support to athletes and local associations who are committed to sports excellence and the Olympic values. Every year we recognize the achievements of our athletes and coaches through the Singapore Sports Awards. The tradition was launched in 1967 by then-SNOC President Othman Wok, who was Singapore’s Minister of Social Affairs.

“The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. ”

~ Pierre de Coubertin

The SNOC sets the qualifying standards for local athletes preparing for international games, and we also coordinate programs to assist athletes financially. The Multi-Million Dollar Awards Programme (MAP), rewards medalists at the Olympic, Commonwealth, Asian & South East Asian Games. The Project 0812 programme specifically funds a select group of elite athletes preparing for the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympic Games.

Training programmes for coaches, officials and athletes are funded annually through the IOC-sponsored Olympic Solidarity Programme. Over the past several years, the SNOC has funded upgrading seminars run by the Basketball Association of Singapore, the Volleyball Association of Singapore and the Singapore Ice Skating Association. We also reach out to physical education teachers through the Singapore Olympic Academy. By co-opting teachers, we deliver the Olympic message to the next generation of competitive athletes.

New technology, science, facilities and vastly improved levels of funding herald a new era for sports development in Singapore. But, the need for Olympic values remains just as strong: sportsmanship, fair play, solidarity, health and peace are the foundation of civilized sports competition. These were the principles that first drew Singapore’s sportsmen in the 1940s to believe that Singapore should be part of a greater community of sports nations.


Swifter, higher, stronger from humble beginnings

As Singapore recovered from the ravages of the Second World War, our new political and sports administrators formed the Singapore Olympic and Sports Council in 1947. (The name would change to the Singapore National Olympic Council in 1970.) The following sports associations were the original members of the SOSC: football, athletics, swimming, weightlifting, basketball, hockey, boxing, badminton and table tennis.

right_side_imageThe first president of the Council was acting Colonial Secretary H.P. Bryson, who was quickly followed by Andrew Gilmour, who served from 1948 to 1951. As a newly named Crown Colony in 1946, Singapore was recognized as an independent ‘Olympic country’ and, thus was eligible to send athletes to the London Games in 1948—the first Games since the outbreak of the War in Europe in 1939.

Gilmour was the first administrator to discover that funding plays a critical role in sending athletes to the Olympic Games. Fund-raising proved so difficult that Singapore was able to send only one athlete and one official. High jumper Lloyd Valberg was Singapore’s first competitor at the Olympics, and Joscelyn de Souza was the team manager. Homesick, nervous and hindered by an injury he suffered while in London, Valberg qualified for the final and placed 14th.

However, Valberg must have come back from the Games with a renewed commitment to competitive sports. By 1950 he was off to New Zealand for the Empire Games and in 1951, he led the contingent to the inaugural Asian Games in Delhi. He won a bronze medal in the 110 yard hurdles.

Singapore has taken part in every Summer Olympics since 1948, with one exception. Singapore joined the US-led boycott of the Moscow Games in 1980. The country’s colours have been raised at the Commonwealth Games beginning in 1952, to the Asian Games from 1951 and the South East Asian Games, beginning from 1959 when they were known as the South East Asian Peninsular Games.

Throughout the decades, Singapore has increased its commitment to sports through the Singapore National Olympic Council, the Ministry of Culture, Community & Youth and Sport Singapore. The SNOC has been led by government ministers, a sign of its importance to the government. Minister Tan Chuan-Jin, Minister for Social and Family Development, has been responsible for the SNOC since 2014. Past presidents of the SNOC include such esteemed Singaporeans as E.W. Barker, Dr. Yeo Ning Hong and Mr Teo Chee Hean. Mr. Barker was the first Singaporean to receive an Award from the IOC for his long contribution to sports in Singapore. Dr. Yeo was also recognized in 1990. Most recently, IOC Member Ng Ser Miang was recognized for his professional coordination of the 117th Session of the IOC Congress in Singapore 2005.

Even as a newly founded country in the 1960s, Singapore understood the importance of sports to the nation. “We are national of predominantly young people,” noted Othman Wok, the President of the SOSC at the time. He was announcing the new republic’s plans to build Singapore’s first Olympic stadium—National Stadium in Kallang.

“More than half our people are less than 19 years old,” Mr. Othman noted. “Young and growing people must have facilities to develop their bodies apart from facilities to develop their minds. Sports must, therefore, be an essential part of our nation’s way of life.”

Some 40 years later, Mr. Othman’s words on the necessity of sports to our nation still ring true.