Speech By Mr Lawrence Wong, Acting Minister For Culture, Community And Youth, And Senior Minister Of State For Communications And Information, At The Singapore Sports Awards 2013

11 Jun 2013

Mr Teo Chee Hean, Deputy Prime Minister, Co-ordinating Minister for National Security, Minister for Home Affairs, and President of the Singapore National Olympic Council; and Mrs Teo

My cabinet colleague Mr Tan Chuan-Jin and newly appointed Singapore National Olympic Council Executive Committee Member,

Officials and Athletes,

Sponsors and partners,

Distinguished Guests,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Celebrating our Achievements

1. I am very happy to join you this evening at the Singapore Sports Awards 2013 to recognise the best in Sporting Singapore. And it's also very good to see the SMU Orchestra here with us tonight. It shows that arts and sports can fit well together, and perhaps that explains why both portfolios are now in my Ministry - the new Ministry of Culture.

2. Looking back, 2012 has been a momentous year for Singapore sports. In particular as Jessie highlighted earlier, it has been an outstanding year for all our athletes. And besides our medals ad record-breaking milestones at the London Olympic and the Paralympic Games, we also saw several major achievements in the regional and international sporting arena.

3. I don't have to go through the full list tonight, but suffice to say, every athlete, every finalist that has been nominated has accomplished much in his or her respective sport. And with so many achievements, I am sure the SNOC Selection Committees had a hard time deciding the finalists and the winners for the various award categories. Somebody asked me just now outside whether I knew who the winners were and I said honestly that I don't have a clue because I have not been informed. But whatever the outcome tonight, I would like to congratulate all of our athletes for your outstanding performances. We are all proud of what you have achieved, so let's give a round of applause to all our athletes once again.

4. Our athletes train hard and deserve all the successes they are having in their respective sports. But athletes do not become champions just on their own. It takes a whole team to bring about athletic success. And this is why the Singapore Sports Awards (SSA) celebrates the contributions of all who are part of this team effort. When the SSA was first introduced back in 1967, there were just 4 categories, all dedicated to athletes alone. Today, there are 12 categories in the SSA, including the "Best Sports Event" (local and international) and the "Most Inspiring Sports Story". So the Awards has broadened, and we are recognising more of our partners. And the way the SSA has evolved demonstrates our commitment to foster collaboration with different stakeholders, as part of our Vision 2030 sporting journey.

5. One important partner is the media - they help to promote and support local sports through their growing coverage in the print, broadcast and online media space. And sports stories like the ones that were nominated as finalists this year, including stories by Red Sports, Yahoo! News and Straits Times, help to profile our local sporting heroes and they enable Singaporeans to better understand the challenges which our athletes go through to pursue their sporting dreams. So I thank our media partners, and I hope that our media will continue to offer even more coverage of local sports in future. By all means, cover English Premier League and all the other international sports but I think local sports deserves a place in our local media.

6. I would also like to pay tribute to those who have, outside of the limelight and public eye, contributed to a successful Team Singapore effort, especially our parents who stand behind their children; supporters; and the many backroom staff who helped to make possible the entire Team Singapore effort. So thank you all for your support and your contribution to sports.

Celebrating our Achievements

7. There are few things in life that rally the emotions and fire up the Singapore spirit like the sports. It is a language that everyone can understand. At its very best, sports can bring people together, no matter our background or race. It bonds our communities and it fosters national pride.

8. So in MCCY, we will continue to do everything we can to develop and build a strong sporting culture in Singapore. When I first took on this appointment in November last year, I pledged to bring in more resources for sports to implement our Vision 2030 masterplan. This is what we have done in this year's budget. We announced in the budget that over the next five years, the government will increase its funding in sports by more than $250 million, and double its investments in sports infrastructure.

9. This increase in resources for the sports will enable us to do several things:

a) First, we will provide even more support for elite athlete training through our revamped national High Performance System (HPS), and the new Sports Excellence (SpEx) scholarship programme. We have already set up this HPS Steering Committee which I chair, and I have asked Minister of State Teo Ser Luck, who used to oversee the Olympics Pathway programme, to help me oversee the selection of athletes for the SpEx scholarship. So, our overall programme and system for high performance sports will be improved through scholarships, through a more robust system, and through improved sports medicine especially through the Singapore Sports Institute as well.

b) Second, we will significantly enhance community participation in sports, so that we can all "live better through sports". We are building more community, town and regional sports facilities. Beyond the hardware, we are also implementing the concept of Super Sports Clubs, starting with a pilot in the Western region. And through these clubs, we hope to provide more comprehensive and integrated programmes that can promote greater interest and participation in sports at the community level.

c) Thirdly, besides sports excellence and sports for all, we also want to give back to society through sports. And that's why we have started the SportCares movement to facilitate sports philanthropy and volunteerism. Through this movement, we hope to drive social initiatives that benefit the community. And so far, the SportCares Foundation has raised S$1 million from corporates and individuals, including through one-to-one matching from the SSC. And these funds will go towards sports programmes that provide skills and character development for children, teenagers and youths in need. One example is the Saturday Night Lights football programme, where we bring young people together every week for football coaching, workshops and a nutritious meal. Many of these young children are struggling with their homework in school, or are having difficultie - some may be on the verge of dropping out. And I've met many of them when they come together for their soccer training. It's wonderful to see how with a programme like this, which they are very interested in - to play soccer, with coaches who are motivated, they can see themselves regaining confidence, and gradually rebuilding and transforming their lives. So we have many people who are helping us with this programme and we hope to continue to expand it, and to give back to society through the sports.

10. Even as we increase state funding, it is important that we do not just rely on government funding alone. Because the development of the sports eco-system cannot be driven by just the government. We need all partners - our NSAs, companies, society at large - to do their part, to help us take sports in Singapore to an even higher level.

11. In particular, I think there is more we can do in the area of corporate involvement and support. I hope to see our companies play a bigger role, in terms of sponsorship, volunteerism and philanthropy, and as participants in corporate sports. Many remember the days of the Business Houses Football League, when employees within their companies would get together to form teams and pit their soccer skills against one another. We still have some corporate games and leagues today, but perhaps not quite to the same level of intensity as they used to be. So I would encourage more companies to step up their involvement in the sports, and use sports as a platform to build camaraderie among their staff, and relationships with fellow businesses. Perhaps before too long, we could have an SSA award category to recognise the contributions of our corporate partners.

12. Through deeper collaborations with our partners, I am confident that we will be able to achieve the goals set out in Vision 2030. We have already begun to see the fruits of our investments. One major catalyst will be the opening of the new National Stadium and the Sports Hub in April next year. I was just there yesterday to see the site and I saw the construction of the highest point of the National Stadium, the roof structure, which is a very critical point, a very critical milestone in the construction because that's the most complex part which requires very precise measurements. And now that they have completed that, the contractors are very confident that the new National Stadium and the Sports Hub will be on track for opening in April next year.

13. For our athletes, the Sports Hub will provide world-class facilities for training and competitions with their counterparts from all over the world. For Singaporeans, there will be a wide range of sports facilities, which can either be booked during non-event days, or which are open for public access, like the skate park, rock climbing wall, beach volleyball and basketball courts, as well as cycling and jogging tracks. And we are also bringing in more sporting events to be held at the Sports Hub. You have heard about the WTA (Women's Tennis Association) Championships which will be held starting next year, and the AFF (Asean Football Federation) Suzuki Cup Final which will be held also next year. And hopefully we will see the Lions again at the new National Stadium competing to win the Suzuki Cup yet another time. And then there are other regional and international sporting events also being worked out in the pipeline, with various event organisers. So I am confident that we will have good hardware infrastructure and also software in the Sports Hub, and we will be able to make this a place for all Singaporeans to enjoy. And we can create many more new memories, for Singaporeans who are fond of sports, to remember something quite special just as many of you would have fond memories of the old National Stadium.


14. Finally, I would like to acknowledge everyone present for your contributions to Sporting Singapore. Congratulations once again to all our nominees and soon-to-be crowned winners for your achievements. We hope that you will continue to bring glory to Singapore and inspire the rest of us with your commitment, dedication and passion. I would also like to thank once again our generous partners and sponsors, the media, family and friends for all your unwavering support. Let us rally around our athletes, give them our best support, and cheer them on as they scale even greater heights of achievements.

Thank you very much.
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