Rings of Stars and Crescent: An excerpt

The Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) is marking its 70th anniversary this year with Rings of Stars and Crescent, a book charting the nation's sporting achievements, with a spotlight on the officials.

Here is the last of four excerpts from the book:

WINNING THE YOUTH OLYMPICS

Moscow was ahead of Singapore on almost all counts. It had experience, money and the know-how. The Russian capital had hosted the Olympics in 1980, pledged about US$180 million (S$245 million) as budget for the YOG - compared to US$75.5 million by Singapore - and could boast that every venue was already built and competition-tested at the highest level. In contrast, Singapore's proposed equestrian venue in Kranji was not yet ready and neither was its Games Village in University Town, Clementi. The Russians, as a major country, were not shy in highlighting Singapore's weaknesses.

In fact, a day after the two cities were shortlisted as the final candidates, Moscow told Singapore to step aside because it wanted "the special honour of organising the first" Youth Olympics. Mr Alexander Chernov, the Moscow bid committee's external affairs director, told the media that Singapore could host the second edition in 2014. "Experience is very important and with less than two years to put it together, Moscow already has a team of professionals in place to do a good job," he told the media. He added that as a former host of the Olympics, Moscow's "experience is our No. 1 strength".

To keep up the pressure, Moscow's 71-year-old mayor Yuri Luzhkov told Reuters he was concerned about holding the YOG in Singapore's tropical conditions. He expressed worries that young athletes in strenuous competitions may be affected by the heat. The news report cited New York-based paediatric expert Ljiljana Dimitrijevic as saying: "Heat and humidity are definitely big risk factors and, taking into account that the Games will be staged in the summer, Moscow looks a more preferable choice than Singapore."

Mr Luzhkov also argued that the IOC should not award two Olympic events to both Asian countries. Since the 2008 Olympics was going to be held in Beijing, he believed the YOG should go to Europe. "Beijing and Singapore are in Asia," he said. "To be more precise, they're both located in South-east Asia. Still, people don't question Singapore's right to host the Youth Olympics just two years after Beijing."

But Singapore refused to fire back, preferring a gentlemanly approach instead of engaging in a tit-for-tat. When asked to respond by the Singapore media, Mr Ng (Ser Miang) replied: "I trust that my IOC colleagues will base their evaluation on informed reports from the IOC evaluation commission and not just on fiction or hearsay. To disparage another city's bid is against the IOC's bidding rules. We could have got experts to say things in our favour, but we didn't. Singapore has full respect for its competitors and will not make negative remarks about other bidding cities. The IOC evaluation commission had not raised any concerns about our weather. Singapore has wonderful summer weather. All the Olympic sports can be practised here.''

Mr Teo Chee Hean turned the lack of experience into an advantage. The SNOC president said: "Moscow had already hosted the Olympics in 1980 and will host the Winter Olympics in 2014. So I hope the IOC will allow Singapore the chance to show what we can do with the YOG."

The argument cut right into the key weakness of Moscow's bid. Russia had, in July 2007, just won the rights to host the 2014 Winter Games in Sochi and there was a reluctance among IOC members to award another Olympics to Russia six months later. More importantly, Mr (Jacques) Rogge had always insisted that the winning host of the Youth Olympics should be a city or country that is unlikely to ever host the Summer or Winter Games. Raw is gold in the bid for YOG...

The IOC agreed. In a postal vote by its 105 members, Singapore edged out Moscow by 53-44. Mr Rogge, who announced the results via satellite link from Lausanne, said: "The IOC has the honour of announcing that the first Summer Youth Olympic Games in 2010 are awarded to the city of Singapore."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 08, 2017, with the headline 'Rings of Stars and Crescent: An excerpt'. Print Edition | Subscribe