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

Through its ties with the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the Singapore National Olympic Council works to educate Singaporeans on the values of the Olympic movement. The Olympic Movement reminds all stakeholders that sports must be governed by fair play and equal opportunity.

The SNOC provides leadership and support to athletes and National Sports Associations (NSAs) who are committed to sports excellence and the Olympic values. Every year, we recognise the achievements of our athletes and coaches through the Singapore Sports Awards. The tradition began in 1967, started by then-SNOC President Othman Wok, who was Singapore’s Minister of Social Affairs.

The SNOC sets the qualifying standards for local athletes preparing for the major Games, and we also coordinate programmes to assist athletes in their Games preparations. The Major Games Awards Programme (MAP) rewards medallists at the OlympicCommonwealthAsian & South East Asian Games. The Project 0812 programme specifically funded a select group of elite athletes preparing for the 2008 and 2012 Summer Olympic Games, eventually leading to Singapore’s first Olympic medal after a 48-year drought.

Training programmes for coaches, officials and athletes are funded annually through the IOC-sponsored Olympic Solidarity Programme. The SNOC supports upgrading seminars run by the NSAs. We also reach out to physical education teachers through the Singapore Olympic Academy. By co-opting teachers, we help deliver the Olympic message to the next generation of Singaporeans.

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 civilised 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

In 1947, Britain sent out invitations to almost all its colonies, dependencies and dominions, urging entries from its vast empire for the 1948 London Olympics. But one crown colony was left out: Singapore. The reason was somewhat comical. The territory did not have an Olympic council for London to send its invitation to.

The sports community in Singapore did not find the omission humorous. It stung them and the colonial government swung into action. On May 27, 1947, the Singapore Olympic and Sports Council was created. The following sports associations were the original members of the SOSC: football, athletics, swimming, weightlifting, basketball, hockey, boxing, badminton and table tennis.

The 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 recognised 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. Singapore sent its first athlete, high jumper Lloyd Valberg, to the London Games.right_side_image

Since then, the Council, which was renamed the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) in 1970, has ensured Singapore is represented in all major Games around the world. The country has participated in every Olympic, Asian, Commonwealth and South-east Asia (SEA) games, except for the 1980 Moscow Olympics when Singapore joined a US-led boycott. On four occasions, Singapore hosted the SEA Games and the country was chosen by the IOC to hold the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010.

But the journey of SNOC in the last 70 odd years has not been smooth or straight. For decades, it struggled with a persistent debate of merger with Malaya. For many years through the 1980s and 1990s, SNOC’s relevance waned as Singapore athletes’ performances weakened in the global and regional stages. In 1985, a fire at its Farrer Park office destroyed all documents and records, leaving the Council lost and, increasingly, forgetful of its own history.

Throughout the decades, Singapore has increased its commitment to sports through the SNOC, the Ministry of Culture, Community & Youth and Sport Singapore. Mr. Tan Chuan-Jin has been SNOC president since 2014. Past presidents of the SNOC include esteemed Singaporeans such 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 recognised in 1990. IOC Member Ng Ser Miang was recognised for his professional coordination of the 117th IOC Session in Singapore in 2005. The nation was also recognised twice for organising the IOC Session and the inaugural Youth Olympic Games.

The story of the SNOC was told in a commemorative book published in 2017, when it celebrated its 70th anniversary. This book pieces back the foundations of SNOC, retraces its stories and rediscovers its personalities. More than just an account of the athletes who did Singapore proud, Rings of Stars and Crescent tells behind-the-scene stories of officials who had painstakingly kept SNOC going, and thriving, for seven decades. It recalls the famous achievements of Tan Howe Liang, Feng Tianwei and Joseph Schooling, but it also shares the lesser-known exploits of G. G. Thomson, E. W. Barker and Ng Ser Miang. It is the story of Singapore and its 70-year adventure with the Olympic movement.

Download a copy here: https://www.singaporeolympics.com/download-rings-stars-crescent/