Despite Sports Ministry's 'hypocrisy', Singapore can't wait for Schooling vs Phelps battle

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Remember Kosuke Hagino, the 21-year-old Japanese who pipped Michael Phelps to take bronze in the 400m individual medley – just behind gold medallist Ryan Lochte in London four years ago? The Japanese are rooting for their sportsman to usher Phelps into retirement at the Rio Olympics.

Many Singaporeans are rooting for their own swimming hero as well – Joseph Schooling – who swam to gold in the 100m butterfly final of the Longhorn Aquatics Elite Invite in Texas on Jun 4, beating record-breaking Olympian Michael Phelps in the process. The Singaporean will challenge the American at the heats of men’s 100-m butterfly.

Joseph schooling
picture credit: TODAY

But while the Japanese who cannot be at the Games will get to root for their hero via the “live” telecast by its public broadcaster Japan Broadcasting Corp and its consortium of commercial television; Singaporeans have to settle for something much less because the Singapore Government refused to step in with additional funding to secure “live” broadcast rights to the Games in Rio. The Sports Ministry’s conclusion that the price escalation for the live telecast of Olympics in recent years was “neither prudent nor value-for-money”, is the reason for its decision.

Sports Minister Grace Fu in reiterating the Government’s position that the non-telecast of of “live” action from Rio is a “commercial one” acknowledged that the whole country is very excited about the Games, especially because many of our athletes have been training very hard.

But she justified the delayed telecast saying that “it’s 30 hours away and the time zone is a bit different”, so many Singaporeans “will try to catch up and watch the Games at a later time.”

Singapore Swimming Association’s Vice-President, Jose Raymond, has however lambasted the decision of the Sports Ministry as hypocrisy. Mr Raymond who was a former journalist and press secretary to Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan, said in his Facebook.

“When citizens of Iceland were gathering in the thousands throughout the country to watch their heroes during the recent European championships, they were not celebrating while watching a delayed broadcast. Singaporean sports administrators who were sharing short videos of the Icelandic nation in ecstasy during the Euro but who now try to justify the lack of a direct telecast of the Olympics for the country are hypocrites who have forgotten how sports is about living in the moment as it happens, and how important it can be for the development of a sports culture in any country. What a shame.”

In pointing out that the Government already supported many other commercial events financially, especially if they are in line with achieving national objectives, Mr Raymond asked the Government to explain why it does not think that the “live” broadcast of the Olympics will benefit Singapore sports, in developing a sports culture, and in inspiring people to embrace sports as a way of life.

He further shared that since the decision was announced that Singapore will not have “live” telecast of the Games, a few sports officials received messages from Sport Singapore officials asking them to be neutral about the lack of “live” broadcast.

“One Sport Singapore official also told me that “this was ur PM’s decision” and asked me not to “play play”,” he said.

“As an elected member of the Singapore Swimming Association, representing the swimming fraternity, it is almost impossible for me to be neutral on this matter,” Mr Raymond added.

The former journalist further said that it is not entirely true that as the Games were happening 30 hours away, at a different time zone, many Singaporeans will prefer to watch the Games at a later time.

“Joseph Schooling’s finals for the 100m fly and 100m freestyle are at 9am and 10am respectively. Different time zone yes, but not at a time when Singaporeans are asleep. In fact, this would have been perfect for students in school, people at work and the community to gather and let the world pass by and watch history being made. Together.”

Mr Raymond said that the Government co-sharing the cost for “live” broadcast of the Rio Olympic Games would have provided a perfect opportunity for the “nation to unite, for bonds to be built within communities, and for a sports culture to be further enhanced.”