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S$100 million to produce champions
IT WAS after Singapore swimmer Joseph Schooling made history at the Olympic Games last year that the government is pumping an additional S$100 million to ensure the country continues producing champions.
Announcing this in Parliament yesterday, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu said the funds will go to Sport Singapore's (SportSG) High Performance Sports (HPS) system to help Team Singapore athletes make a consistently strong showing at the SEA Games by 2030, while producing champions at the Asian, world and Olympic levels.
To achieve that, S$50 million will be invested over the next five years to give greater support to Singapore's elite athletes.The key areas being looked into are: capability and capacity of coaching, technical and high-performance personnel, opportunities for overseas training and competition, improved training environments for national athletes, and higher campaign funding for non-Sports Excellence Scholars with the potential to do well at major Games.
Ms Fu said podium success at world championships and the Olympics "requires a focused and sustained effort at all levels" and that "a talented and dedicated athlete is a necessary starting point".
"To groom that athlete into a world champion, we need great coaches supported by deep sports science and sports medicine capabilities. The Singapore Sports Institute (SSI) and the National Youth Sports Institute (NYSI) are critical enablers in this process," she said.
Another learning point was that "success at the elite level requires long-term commitment".
"We did not produce champions overnight. Schooling is a two-time Olympian, (Yip) Pin Xiu and Theresa (Goh) are three- and four-time Paralympians, respectively," she said.
"Growing our pipeline of talent and grooming them for podium success requires long-term athlete development plans, and the resources and the technical expertise to create a high-performance training and competition environment."
And to get parents, corporates and Singaporeans to rally behind the athletes, Ms Fu said her ministry is setting up a One Team Singapore matching grant, which will match sports donations dollar-for-dollar over the next five years, up to S$50 million, into the Vision 2030 Fund.
Ms Fu said the corporate sector is also stepping up and pointed out that services firm Deloitte Singapore as one that has come forward to provide sponsorship, have its staff volunteer and as a member of the spexBusiness Network, offer career development opportunities to athletes.
"In 2016, one defining moment took place at 9.12am on Aug 13. Across the island, Singaporeans held their breath as they witnessed history being made in a swimming pool halfway across the world. For the first time, we heard Majulah Singapura being played at the Olympics. Singaporeans celebrated wildly."
Ms Fu added that while such moments are part of Singapore's common memory for years to come as "they reflect our national pride and celebrate our common identity", she asked if the ties built during peace time would be able to withstand a period of post-truth politics and threat of terrorism.
She said her ministry will work with Singaporeans in national-building on three levels: nurture a caring people, grow a cohesive society and build a confident nation.
She told the House that the government will establish a SGSecure Community Network (SGCN) to connect with all religious organisations, and prepare places of worship to be crisis-ready in case of a terrorist attack.
And in line with the national SGSecure movement to prepare the public in the event of acts of terror, SGCN will complement the work of Inter-Racial and Religious Confidence Circles (IRCC) found in every constituency.
"In the hours and days after a terrorist attack, we need respected community and religious leaders to convey messages of calm and solidarity to their congregations and to the wider community," she said.
Ms Fu added that while Singaporeans support racial and religious diversity, there are still knowledge gaps around religious practices, and if left unaddressed, these vacuum "could be filled by irresponsible voices that seed prejudice".
"We will deepen religious understanding through in-depth engagements. MCCY will work with community partners to clarify the practice of religion in a multiracial, multireligious society, and address sensitive questions in a mutually respectful setting.
"We will also work with community partners to produce content, such as short videos and brochures, which address common, but often unasked, questions on the practices of different faiths."