Teo Chee Hean
- Deputy Prime Minister & Coordinating Minister for National Security
- Patron, Singapore National Olympic Council
- President, Singapore National Olympic Council (1998 – 2014)
Project 0812 occupies a special place in my heart. For 16 years, since 1998, I have had the honour of serving as the president of the Singapore National Olympic Council. I saw our athletes prepare for the games, chaired the selection committee, and encouraged them on at every South-east Asian, Commonwealth, Asian and Olympic Games during this period. I witnessed many triumphs of Team Singapore athletes and also our fair share of heartaches. Sports is inspiring at its best, but it can also be painful when athletes miss out on their targets by the tiniest of margins.
I will always remember two of such instances. At the Sydney Olympics in 2000, Jing Junhong came close to winning a bronze medal in table tennis. Four years later, we came even closer in Athens. Li Jiawei was only two points from getting into the women singles’ table tennis final before she was defeated. It would have earned Singapore its first Olympic medal in 44 years. Both Junhong and Jiawei were terribly disappointed. I knew how much they wanted to end the long wait after Tan Howe Liang’s historic silver in 1960. Could we have done just a little more to help our athletes clear that final hurdle?
That is why when Chris Chan suggested in 2006 to do something extra to help our Singapore athletes finally get on the Olympic podium, I gave my support. SNOC moved quickly to get Project 0812 going, led by Ng Ser Miang and the financial support of Tote Board and the government. The national sports associations recognised that we had a real chance, and gave their full cooperation. I was very glad to see a record number of Singapore athletes qualifying on merit for the Beijing Olympics in 2008.
Project 0812 was not completely smooth sailing. There would naturally be different views on how best to proceed and there would be some ruffled feathers. You will read about all these challenges and their twists and turns in this book. But despite the difficulties, the different parties, from officials to coaches to athletes, were eventually able to come together for the common good of obtaining Olympic glory for Singapore. I will never forget the moment when our table tennis team beat South Korea in the semi-finals to win us our first Olympic medal in 48 years. It was a proud day when the Singapore flag was raised in Beijing.
I am glad to see that this has inspired and motivated us to now set our sights even higher.
- Speaker of Parliament
- President, Singapore National Olympic Council (2014 – )
When Joseph Schooling won the gold medal at the Rio Olympics in 2016, the Majulah Singapura was played for the first time at the Summer Games. I felt a joy, pride and exhilaration which I’ve never experienced before. I am sure many Singaporeans had that same feeling. It was magical. Joseph swam on the backs of giants in Singapore sports. He trod on ground paved by pioneers like Tan Howe Liang, who sacrificed so much to bring Olympic glory to Singapore in 1960. He followed in the footsteps of our women’s table tennis team, who broke through with a silver and two bronzes in the Beijing and London Games.
It is not a coincidence that Singapore has now won medals in three Olympic Games in a row, after a barren 48-year run. Much credit must go to Project 0812, the innovative scheme started by the Singapore National Olympic Council to help Singapore win a medal at the Olympics for the first time after 1960. It was, and still is, a rare initiative of such magnitude in Singapore sport – all the partners involved came together, took the genesis of an idea and turned it into a glittering reality.
I still remember vividly the moments when our women's teams gave their all at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games, winning medals and rallied many Singaporeans behind them on both occasions. Our swimmer Tao Li finished fifth in Beijing and it was the first time Singapore made a swimming final at the Olympics. As Joseph shared in the epilogue of this book, these achievements helped show him that the possible had evolved into the probable.
This book and its multimedia elements tell the story of Project 0812’s struggles and is an important addition to the young, but growing, literature of Singapore sports. It preserves the heritage of a successful Olympic initiative. By chronicling the journey from Singapore to Beijing, from London to Rio, I hope readers can take away the can-do spirit captured by the Singapore sports community. Onwards to Tokyo 2020 and beyond!