Sports can fire up the Singapore spirit: PM Lee

SPORTS like wushu are an essential part of Singaporeans' shared identity and can rally the people, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said last night.

Similarly, lion and dragon dances can cultivate values such as resilience, teamwork and mutual respect among Singaporeans, he added.

This is one reason why the Government pumps in money to promote a sporting culture and build more community sports facilities, Mr Lee said at a fund-raising dinner of the Singapore Wushu Dragon and Lion Dance Federation.

"The Government will give every Singaporean the chance to enjoy sports, whether it's professional athletes, whether it's weekend warriors or whether it's spectators," he said at the event held at Chung Cheng High School (Main) in Goodman Road.

Acting Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong, who oversees the sports portfolio, was among the 600 guests.

Mr Lee noted how sports can fire up the Singapore spirit, whether it is cheering on the wushu team at the SEA Games or the Lions at the Suzuki Cup football tournament.

He outlined the Government's plans for promoting a strong sporting culture among Singaporeans.

These include boosting funding by more than $250 million over the next five years, and doubling infrastructure investments.

Mr Lee encouraged donors at the event to give generously, adding that the money will help the federation improve coaching of young athletes, promote wushu among students and reach out to all ethnic groups.

He noted that all races enjoy lion and dragon dance, and that more students are choosing wushu as a co-curricular activity in schools.

Speaking in both Mandarin and English, Mr Lee praised the federation for its promotion of wushu.

The federation, first mooted by former prime minister Lee Kuan Yew in the 1960s to unite local pugilistic societies, has 338 groups under its wing.

Its national wushu team has won medals at world championships. Such successes by Singaporean athletes inspire the young and rally the nation, PM Lee said.

Earlier, the federation's president, MP Liang Eng Hwa, said its goal is to win at least two medals at the SEA Games in Myanmar this December, and at least four medals at the 2015 SEA Games, which will be hosted by Singapore.

The federation also hopes to promote wushu, taiji and qigong as lifestyle sports through a co-funding outreach programme with community development councils.