Athletics: Singapore's Tang Weng Fei treasures experience despite failed bid for IAAF treasurer post

Singapore Athletics chief Tang Weng Fei announced his candidacy only in late April.
Singapore Athletics chief Tang Weng Fei announced his candidacy only in late April. PHOTO: THE NEW PAPER FILE

Singapore's Tang Weng Fei might have lost his bid to become treasurer of the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) but he said there were many positives to be drawn from his campaign.

At the IAAF Congress in Beijing, attended by 211 of the world body's delegates, the Singapore Athletics chief lost to the president of the Royal Spanish Athletics Federation, Jose Maria Odriozola.

Yet, despite announcing his candidacy only in late April, Tang, an oil trader, garnered the second-highest number of votes - 64 in the first round, and 68 in the second.

Odriozola, a council member of the IAAF since 1999, got 85 votes in the first round, and won with 102 votes in the second.

The other contenders were the German Athletics Association president Clemens Prokop and the Oceania Athletics Association chief Geoff Gardner.

Said Tang, 61: "Obviously, I'm disappointed that I couldn't take this home. But it was an incredible experience. It broadened my knowledge and I made a lot of friends in the IAAF family.

"It's good for a newcomer like me to get 68 votes. If I had campaigned longer, who knows? But that's life, it's all about timing."

He felt Singapore's good reputation in the international community helped his campaign. He said: "Over the last four months, many people I met said Singapore is a great country with good governance. I'm sure it helped, especially since I was running for treasurer."

In the last two decades, several Singaporeans have held top posts in international sports associations.

They include Ng Ser Miang, vice-president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) from 2009 to 2013 and current chairman of the IOC's finance commission, and Jessie Phua, who was president of world bowling body Federation Internationale des Quilleurs from 2007 to 2011.

Annabel Pennefather was vice-president of the International Hockey Federation from 2004 to 2010 while Low Teo Ping served as the vice-president of the International Sailing Federation from 2004 to 2012.

Tang urged his fellow Singaporeans not to shy away from sport's biggest jobs.

"The biggest lesson is that we may be a small country but we can compete on the international arena," he said. "You just need to make your rounds, and commit time and effort into networking."

The highlight of the congress was the presidential race between Ukrainian pole-vault legend Sergey Bubka and Britain's two-time Olympic champion Sebastian Coe.

Coe beat Bubka by 115 to 92 votes, and replaces long-time IAAF chief Lamine Diack, who had held the post since 1999. Bubka was re-elected as vice-president.

Said Tang who had backed Bubka for president: "Like I said earlier, both are very good candidates.

"That they are both still in the IAAF is good for the sport."

He added: "The most important thing for the new council is that they must address the doping issues immediately."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 20, 2015, with the headline 'Tang treasures the experience despite failed bid for post'. Print Edition | Subscribe