Singaporeans demand a public apology from Minister Dr Vivian Balakrishnan for mismanaging the Youth Olympic Games (YOG)
We are Singaporeans who are dismayed, disappointed and disgusted with the performance of Singapore's Minister of Community Development, Youth and Sports Dr Vivian Balakrishnan in his handling of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG) and are demanding a PUBLIC APOLOGY from him for the following:
1. Exceeding the initial YOG budget by more than three times:
The budget has ballooned from $107 million dollars to a shocking $387 million dollars. In contrast, Dr Vivian allocated a miserly $92 million dollars to help poor and needy Singaporeans in the same year. Till today, Dr Vivian has yet to account to Singaporeans as to what happened.
2. Failure to engage and consult Singaporeans before bidding for YOG:
Dr Vivian Balakrishnan did not bother to seek the views of Singaporeans before launching an official bid for the YOG in 2007. He simply went ahead and bid for it without conducting a study to assess the level of public support of it. Even Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong himself has expressed doubts if Singapore is ready to host the YOG. As a result, the YOG is becoming "Your Own Game" instead of a genuine national event involving all Singaporeans.
3. Lack of enthusiasm and support among Singaporeans for YOG:
Dr Vivian has more than two years to publicize and promote the YOG among Singaporeans. Nearly $10 million dollars of taxpayers' monies are spent on giant YOG billboards and banners put up all over Singapore and yet few Singaporeans are remotely interested in it. In an online poll conducted by Channel News Asia two weeks ago, 88 percent of some 6,400 Singaporeans said they are "not interested in the YOG at all" while 4 percent has never heard about it despite the extensive coverage given by the Singapore media. The lack of interest from Singaporeans for the YOG is evidenced by the rows of empty seats at its games and events with the live band at Marina promontory playing to a non-existent audience for days.
4. Lack of interest and publicity from the international media:
Dr Vivian claimed that YOG is supposed to put Singapore on the world map, but interest from the international media has been scanty at best. Billed as Singapore's "biggest" show, the YOG opening ceremony did not even make the sports headines of major international papers with the limelight stolen by the English Premier League, PGA and Rogers Cup. News coverage of the YOG was relegated to inconspicuous corners of most foreign publications if they do appear at all. Other than the relatives and friends of the athletes, hardly anybody has heard of YOG outside Singapore.
5. Ticketing lapses:
This must be a first in an international sporting event - tickets are sold out but yet the seats are empty causing athletes to perform in near empty stadiums. It turns out that MOE and various state agencies have bought the tickets in advance for distribution to their students and staff, few of whom bother to attend the games, resulting in genuine fans not being able to watch them on the day of the competition.
6. Forcing students to attend YOG events:
Due to the lack of support from the people, Singapore students are being forced to attend YOG events with a primary school principal even asking the students to pay a $5 "deposit" to ensure they turn up. Another primary school coerced its students to stand in the rain for hours to welcome the YOG torch rally. Some are threatened with not being given their testimonials or corrective work order if they do not support the YOG. Dr Vivian has achieved the unique feat of turning the "Youth Olympic Games" into the "Youth Arirang Games", reminiscent of the annual mass games conducted by North Korea.
7. Giving YOG volunteers substandard food while treating athletes like kings:
While athletes are given three daily buffet meals, YOG volunteers who have to work for long hours without rest are given substandard inadequate food not fit for human consumption. From the callous manner which the volunteers are being treated or rather mistreated, it is pretty obvious that Dr Vivian does not acknowledge, let alone appreciate their contributions at all. They are nothing more but mere "slaves" in his eyes to ensure that his YOG becomes a success, if ever.
8. Safety issues at YOG venues:
A roof canvas collapsed in a heavy downpour at a YOG venue *SCAPE. Fortunately, nobody was injured as there are few people around at the scene. A temporary platform collapsed injuring a journalist from China. These lapses in safety are almost unheard of in international sporting events.
9. Mass food poisoning outbreak at two YOG venues:
On 15 August 2010, 26 YOG volunteers came down with diarrhoea and abdominal pain after taking contaminated meals provided by the YOG food caterer. The volunteers and public were not informed of the mass food poisoning outbreak until three days later after the news was leaked and spreading like wildfire on the internet, suggesting of a cover-up by the organizers. In the first place, such a lapse in the food hygiene should not have happened at all. Instead of calling a press conference to explain the incident to concerned parents, Dr Vivian simply said during a side event that the investigations will take "some time".
10. Daily inconveniences for Singaporeans:
Ordinary Singaporeans struggling to make a living have to put up with many unexpected inconveniences caused by an over-zealous administration under the charge of Dr Vivian desperate to make itself look good in the eyes of the world. Motorists are told repeatedly to give way to YOG vehicles in YOG-designated lanes or fined $130. Bus routes are diverted with little warning and commuters have to walk long distances to reach their destinations. NTU has been turned into a "high security prison" with many road blocks and diversions. School examinations were re-scheduled so that the students can support the YOG. Parents have to stay up late to wait for their children to return home after their volunteer stint. The list goes on.
The YOG has no tangible benefits for Singaporeans and is nothing more but a $387 million dollar "vanity fair" of Dr Vivian Balakrishnan. If he still has any sense of shame left in him, he should apologize to Singaporeans unreservedly and explain and clarify the lingering doubts about the handling of the YOG on our minds.