Friday, August 15, 2008

Random musings on the Singapore women table tennis team making it to the Olympics finals

Firstly, I apologise for the chunky title for this post but I couldn't come up with a more snappy and appropriate title.

That aside, I suppose most of you all should already be aware that as of this afternoon, the Singaporean women table tennis team was able to defeat their Korean counterparts in the semi-finals and thereby earning themselves a place in the Olympics finals against the Chinese team. In effect, this would mean that regardless of whether they win the match against the Chinese team, the Singaporean women table tennis team would bring back an Olympics medal for Singapore; silver if they do not win and gold if they win (which, although is the ideal outcome, is not really possible, considering who they are up against).

My first thought when I heard about this was: "Finally! Singapore would finally get another Olympics medal after Mr. Tan Howe Liang won one for weightlifting at the 1960 Olympics!"

Match or Speech?

Later on, when I realised that Channel U would be broadcasting the match between Singapore and China live from 7.30p.m. onwards this Sunday, I cannot help but wonder: "Would more people tune in to watch the match or to watch the Prime Minister (PM) speak?"

I mean, this Sunday will also be the day on which almost all major local TV channels (except Channel U evidently) and radio stations will be broadcasting the PM's annual National Day Rally speech, which some observers have come to term as Singapore's most politically significant speech especially considering that this year, announcements on new initiatives to encourage Singaporeans to have more babies/children and possible political reforms are expected.

Hence, although the English segment of the PM's National Day Rally speech, which usually is the most substantive segment, would be broadcasted from 8p.m. onwards, it would still clash with the live broadcast of the table tennis match between Singapore and China, unless somehow the match lasts only for half an hour (which is highly unlikely considering it took much longer than that for the semi-finals match between Singapore and Korea).

Thus, although I will perhaps have no way of knowing, I suppose it would be most interesting to know whether more people will choose to watch the live broadcast of the National Day Rally speech or the Olympics match between Singapore & China. Also, I guess the editorial boards for local news agencies will perhaps be facing the dilemma of whether to allocate more coverage to the speech or the match on the following Monday; there is, after all, limited front-page space and air-time.

What would the choice of you all be: watch the speech or watch the match?

"Singaporean" team?

Moving on, although I personally have no qualms about offering my sincere congratulations and thanks to the efforts of the Singaporean women table tennis team, I cannot help but have this nagging worry that there will be those who will continue to question if this team is indeed a "Singaporean" team.

I mean, there exists almost a perennial debate over whether "naturalised Singaporeans", that is foreign immigrants to Singapore who manage to obtain Singapore citizenship, can be regarded as "true" Singaporeans, whether they are "truly loyal" to Singapore and whether achievements made by these "naturalised Singaporeans" can be counted as Singaporean achievements.

This debate is perhaps especially acute in local sporting circles, considering that, if I am not wrong, a significant number of athletes are foreign immigrants to Singapore and of whom, some would eventually obtain Singapore citizenship and join the local national teams.

While this debate has perhaps long been in existence, it peaks at moments such as in 1998 when it was found that two of the mountaineers from the Singapore expedition team who managed to reach the summit of Mount Everest were not Singaporean citizens but Permanent Residents (these two mountaineers did later become Singaporean citizens) and recently, when there was some online debate, if not anger, over Li Jiawei's, a member of the Singapore Olympics 2008 delegation and coincidentally a member of the women table tennis team competing in the finals, patriotism (or supposed lack of) to Singapore when she was seen slightly dragging the Singapore national flag during the Olympics 2008 opening ceremony.

Well, I suppose the extent of the debate over "naturalised Singaporeans" in sports can be gleaned from the fact that it was somewhat employed as a minor sub-plot in the recent Channel 8 drama serial "Beach.Ball.Babes" (yes, the one with scenes of actresses and extras shopping at Tiong Bahru wet market in bikinis).

And, interestingly enough, as I was doing some background research for this post, I came across this article by the BBC which states matter-of-factly (though I found it somewhat disparaging) that: "Feng Tianwei, who, like the rest of the Singapore team, is an import from China..." (emphasis mine).

Where am I going with all this rambling? Well, I suppose that my point is that it is perhaps rather sad, if not disappointing, that even despite their efforts and achievements, questions over "naturalised Singaporeans" will most likely persist. I mean, what do they have to do to prove their loyalty and worth to Singapore? They already conquered Mount Everest and will be bringing back an Olympics medal!

In the end, I suppose that if local Malay-Muslims are made to feel like "the least favourite child" of Singapore, "naturalised Singaporeans" are perhaps feeling like unwelcomed adopted children...

P.S. 17/8/2008

Interestingly enough, PM Lee decided to postpone the live telecast of the English segment of his National Day Rally speech to Monday (18/8/2008) so as to allow people to concentrate on watching the finals match between Singapore's and China's women table tennis team.


chillycraps said...

how about we look at it from another angle, that the government has made wise medal-winning investments?

Anonymous said...

"Naturalised" Singaporeans? Nah, they were spotted and bought over for a specific purpose. It is not very different from picking out a piece of meat at the meat market and making an offer, it is trading humans and nationalities.

Secondly I wish them the best. After all everyone wants a better life for themselves. And if some people loves throwing money at them, why not?

Lastly the most important question is whether such a practice dilutes the spirit of competition and what ti means to represent a country.

Chase said...

i must applaud you for this sane and well-articulated entry. Just 5 mins ago, i was riled up by a thoughtless comment made by someone who obviously didnt think things through. As an ex-stta staff, I'm glad that there are fellow singaporeans who are able to look beyond the surface and give credit where its due.


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