SEA Games 2017, Aug 19-30

SEA Games: Backing Team Singapore from the stands

Team Singapore supporters watching the football match between Singapore and Laos yesterday. They are on the ActiveSG Experience Tour.
Team Singapore supporters watching the football match between Singapore and Laos yesterday. They are on the ActiveSG Experience Tour.PHOTO COURTESY OF JAMES TANG
Nine-year-old Faith Peh with her idol Shanti Pereira. Faith is one of the winners of a contest held by The
Nine-year-old Faith Peh with her idol Shanti Pereira. Faith is one of the winners of a contest held by The Straits Times and Sport Singapore. She won a fully paid trip to Kuala Lumpur.PHOTO COURTESY OF CHRISTINA TAN

Singaporeans are heading to KL in droves to support their compatriots, friends and idols

With Kuala Lumpur a mere five-hour bus ride away, Singaporeans are opting to make the trip over the Causeway to cheer on Team Singapore (TeamSG) at the 29th SEA Games.

For nine-year-old pupil Faith Peh, this gives her a golden chance to watch her idol, sprinter Shanti Pereira, competing in person .

Said Faith, who trains with the ActiveSG Athletics Club (Kids): "I like to watch athletes race live. My favourite national athlete is Shanti Pereira. She is my role model because I see her almost every Saturday, training under the hot sun."

Accompanying the aspiring young athlete to KL will be her mother, Christina Tan. Aside from athletics, the pair hope to catch the swimmers in action, having watched the synchronised swimming events during the 2015 Games on home soil.

Said Tan, a 41-year-old freelance teacher: "We will be bringing along mostly National Day paraphernalia, like clappers and scarves to cheer on our athletes. We will definitely be dressed in red and white."

Faith added: "I want to draw and bring a big banner down too."

The duo are among the winners of a contest organised by The Straits Times (ST) and Sport Singapore (SportSG). Five pairs won a fully-paid trip to KL from Aug 25-27 to cheer on the Singapore athletes.

NEAR AND FAR

With the Games being held nearby, I felt it was a good chance to support Team Singapore again.

SHEILA HASSAN , a volunteer at the Rio Olympics, on cheering on Singapore athletes in Kuala Lumpur.

Local travel agency New Shan Travel has also been appointed by national sports agency SportSG to provide the ActiveSG Experience Tour. Apart from tickets to the Games, the three-day/two-night or two-day/one-night tour also emphasises the need to lead a healthy lifestyle, with light exercises during breaks as well as healthier meal choices.

New Shan Travel group general manager James Tang, 46, said the majority of tour participants were in their 30s to 50s, and that the company even had to turn away some interested customers due to the overwhelming response.

"We are fully booked. Today we have six (30-seater) buses. Tomorrow we have another bus coming. Next Friday, we are also almost fully booked with seven buses," he said.

"This is the first time SportSG is planning this, so it's also a good chance for us to gauge the response to prepare for (the next Games) two years down the road."

Some of his clients are already in the Malaysian capital, like Sheila Hassan, who spoke to ST after watching Singapore beat Laos 2-0 in the football competition yesterday.

Although she did not have any particular athlete in mind, being able to support local athletes in person was enough for her to pack her bags and make the trip north. She will also be watching rugby and water polo.

 

She said: "I was a volunteer at the Rio Olympics last year, so I got to watch the Singaporean athletes give their all for the nation.

"It was a really meaningful and exciting experience last year, so with the Games being held nearby, I felt it was a good chance to support Team Singapore again."

Bus operators ST spoke to, such as aggregators easybook.com and Starmart Express said that while there was a slight increase in passenger numbers, they put the surge down to public holidays (Singapore and Malaysia's national days) this month.

Deepashini Naidu, 23, was unable to watch her close friend Chelsea Ann Sim live in action when the Games were held in Singapore two years ago.

She is hoping to catch Sim - the defending taekwondo champion in the women's individual poomsae - this time round.

Said Deepashini, who is also one of the winners of the ST-SportSG contest: "I really want to watch taekwondo, as one of my close friends, Chelsea, will be representing Singapore. I think SportSG is looking to make such arrangements, but it will depend on her competition and whether the timings overlap."

The Nanyang Technological University student added that if not, she would be interested in watching anything "interesting", such as gymnastics or swimming.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 19, 2017, with the headline 'Backing TeamSG from the stands'. Print Edition | Subscribe