On July 9, I was invited to the official Team Singapore Rio 2016 Flag presentation Ceremony in tandem with Olympic Day at Marina Bay’s Floating Platform. Being an unapologetic night owl, it was a refreshing change to wake up at 6am for a 3.6km walk and see our city in a different light.
Starting on 6 August, there will be 25 athletes representing Singapore, among 10,500 athletes across 206 countries, who will be competing over a span of 17 days. See the schedule here. The Paralympics held in Rio a month later has a record high of 11 athletes from Singapore competing across five sports (athletics, boccia, equestrian, sailing and swimming).
Singapore’s Olympic flag bearer is badminton’s top shuttler Derek Wong, currently ranked 60th in the world. He is one of only two shuttlers who made it to the Rio Olympics 2016, which is said to be his last game before retiring.
Did you know? The best Paralympics swimmer in the world is our very own Yip Pin Xiu. The 2008 Beijing Paralympics gold medalist Yip has traveled to over seven countries this year for training and competitions to prepare for the Games. She will head the 11-member Paralympics team in Rio.
Competitive sports aren’t just about scores like in an iPad game and it’s not always about the physically strongest. Some “tough men” games are more of a thinking game really. All the glory from the 12 seconds you see on screen is the combined effort of sacrifice and will to keep going every day after years of blood, sweat and tears.
Whether it’s being on stage performing, losing in a game or getting a medal, I miss the way sports bring people together in a way many other social activities don’t. The mental and emotional journey is insane enough even on a national level and sportsmen set such high personal achievements that it’s hard to imagine the additional pressure where global media that sells it as an entertainment too. Imagine all your unglam moments on TV at the mercy of being a 9gag meme such as Faces of Olympic Divers!
While growing up as a tomboy, I only cared about sports, neopets and my pet hamster. Though I wasn’t that athletically built, I did it for the thrill. I played center for Netball competitions (that’s why I still can’t dribble in basketball), won gold in speed skipping (yes such a thing existed haha) against Raffles and performed Chinese dance at the Esplanade in frilly sequins and Chun-Li hair.
I trained my full splits with a teacher sitting on my leg, sprained my ankle several times, had a ball smashed in my face once, broke my front tooth while blading, but that was part and parcel of learning. When I was about 9 years old, I spent recess breaks with a senior who would time me in order to beat my 208 skips per minute record, which gave me whip marks every time. But even when I was not training with the school team, I had hobbies like soccer, dance, volleyball, cycling, martial arts and swimming.
FUN FACTS: I still suck in freestyle swimming though (I only do breaststroke). When I jumped ship to drama & debate and grew up a little too vain, the only time I was at the track was to wait for my boyfriend (a schoolmate then)…before he broke his shoulder and left the national rugby academy.
So for all you guys getting into Olympic fever this August, drawing up mental aesthetic scoreboards of how hot the athletes are, here are some interesting facts to gear you up for Team Singapore & Rio 2016:
Singapore Best Olympic Record was…
a silver medal won by weightlifter Tan Howe Liang in Rome in 1960 while swimmer Ang Peng Siong was ranked world number one in the 50m Freestyle in 1982.
Local swim star Joseph Schooling’s granduncle is…
Singapore’s first Olympian high jumper Lloyd Valberg. He competed in the 1948 Games in London and finished 14th in the final.
Rio 2016 is the first South American country to host the Games.
The city won its bid in 2009, beating out Chicago, Madrid and Tokyo. The torch relay began on April 21 in the Games’ birthplace — Olympia in Greece — before traveling across Brazil for more than 90 days before finishing in Rio on August 5.
The Games will take place in four areas in Rio:
Copacabana, whose world-famous beach will host beach volleyball; Barra, home to the Olympic Park; Deodoro, for aquatics, BMX, and equestrian centers; and Maracanã, which features two large stadiums.
Rugby Sevens makes its debut at the Rio Games.
The seven-a-side variant of rugby lasts only 15 minutes per game. The U.S. is a defending rugby champion, who won in the 1924 Olympics.
Golf finally returns to the Olympics after a 112-year absence.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) decided to reinstate the sport, which was last played in 1900 and 1904.
The Rio games will be the first to feature Olympians born in the year 2000.
Rules state that all competitors born before Jan. 1, 2003 can join, but many sports have other age requirements for health and safety reasons. The youngest competitors are likely to be from diving and gymnastics.
The mascot for 2016 is “Vinicius,” a yellow and blue creature representing Brazilian wildlife.
It resembles a cat or monkey that can fly and has the power to stretch its limbs and body. It is named after Bossa Nova musician Vinicius de Moraes. Rio 2016 organizers say they hope Vinicius will help them raise 1 billion reais ($398 million) in merchandising.
Total number of tickets: 7.5 million.
Prices range from $40 for some swimming events to almost $3,000 for the best seats at the opening ceremony. Most popular events so far are soccer, basketball, volleyball and handball.
Number of athletes’ meals per day: 60,000.
Brazilian staples like rice and black beans and barbecued meat will be accompanied by other local offerings, such as tapioca, pao de queijo (cheese bread) and acai (an Amazonian fruit and so-called superfood).
Number of soldiers & policemen deployed for Rio 2016: 85,000
It is the largest security force assembled at any event in Brazil’s history and twice as large as the security presence for London 2012.
Here are some other images taken at Olympic Day!
The official “One Team Singapore” support campaign has been launched to rally Singaporeans in support of the athletes at both Games. You can pledge your support online and in person at the road shows at selected FairPrice hypermarts, and look out for the OneTeamSG cheer truck at various events such as the National Day Parade in August.
To sum up this post, I would like to wish all athletes the best of luck, stay hydrated, and remember that winning isn’t everything; it’s the journey that counts more than the destination. Greatness is not just about winning, it is really about the months and years of perseverance, dedication, pain and struggle! As a tiny nation, we need to cheer on our athletes, not just for a medal, but to celebrate how far they’ve already come.