Monday, August 13, 2012

Numbers game

The numbers do not lie. On a per capita basis, Yahoo Sports reported that Jamaica, with a population of 2.7 million, won nine gold medals in the recently concluded London Olympic games. This casts doubt on people who say that Singapore's population is too small to produce world beaters in sports. For the record, Singapore won three bronze medals, and all by people who were not born in Singapore. They are what Singaporeans' euphemistically call "Foreign Talent". Singapore's population as of 2011 is 5,183,700 of which  Singapore residents number 3,789,300. That's roughly 1 million more than Jamaica's population, or 2.5 million more if you include the non residents.

Granted, we are not comparing apple with apple. There are differing social, cultural and economic environments that mask these numbers, and sociologists and politicians will have their stories to tell to rationalise and explain the discrepancies in these numbers.

However, going by these numbers alone, Singapore hasn't done all that well. Tao Li didn't even get into the finals. She was 6th in the Beijing Games.Joseph Schooling, the great hope of the Republic, blamed his disastrous performance on the cap and goggle, nuf said. The Singapore women table tennis team was demoted from Silver at the Beijing Olympics to Bronze at this London Games. Feng redeemed the team with her commendable individual Bronze effort. And the rest of team Singapore? What, there are others?

Perhaps we should study countries like Jamaica or even Grenada to discover how else, other than immigration, which is a contentious issue in Singapore right now. Singapore can do better on the world sporting stage. I think, after the post-mortem (I assume there will be one conducted), it won't be for the lack of ideas and initiatives that the Singapore government and the sporting community have approached the issue. But many would say that monetary reward is not the only, nor the best way, nor is it the right way in the long term to produce local sporting talent. Don't get me wrong. Money can and does play a part, but obviously there is something missing that the Jamaicans appear to have. Usain Bolt is not their one-shot wonder. Their 1-2-3 victory in the 200m race proves it.

Singapore has the next 4 years to prepare for gold in the Rio Olympics. Hopefully, we will have answers way before then so that we can works towards greater success in those Olympics.


Anonymous said...

In Jamaica, people used sports as a means to get out of poverty, hence the added motivation to train and excel. For every Bolt and Blake, there are hundreds of others who have been cast off from the system, and could very well be begging in the streets. In addition, the competitive career (his/her most lucrative period) of an elite athelete is at most 12 years, or 3 Olympics. After that, he either becomes a media pundit, or grows a beer belly.

Anonymous said...

I suppose in Singapore, the biggest reward is a government scholarship to study in a prestigious University and thereafter come back to work behind a desk to do the same for others - sort of virtuous cycle. How else can you explain parents throwing money (away?) at tuition lessons and further enhancement lessons towards ever greater academic achievements? Apparently we do very well here. Do we want to re-priortize at all? Let's just stick to what we do best - the nurturing and creation of Mandarins.

Epilogos Blogger said...

Given our pragmatism, we can probably adapt to have the best of both worlds. But yes, our people must be hungry enough to want to excel in sports on the world stage without feeling left out of the rat race.

How can we nurture such hunger?

Anonymous said...

Our talent scouts should be in Kingston by now or perhaps not as their sprinters may have more difficulty passing off as Singaporeans, unlike the Chinese paddlers.

What do you think?