Will Team Singapore's home advantage mean 75 SEA Games golds?

Will Team Singapore's home advantage mean 75 SEA Games golds?

Winning inspires. It stirs the masses, it makes stars and, in these modern times, it increasingly boosts bank accounts.

Losing sucks.

Sport is many things, but it is crucially also about this.

Of course, it's not more important than life and death, notwithstanding the famous words of Liverpool legend Bill Shankly, who was actually talking about attitude and recognised sport as one of life's great teachers.

The New Paper urges Team Singapore to fight, scrap, scream, run, defend, kick, smash, swim and shoot wearing Shankly's famous attitude at the 28th South-east Asia (SEA) Games.

Do this and our athletes can deliver our bold prediction of a record haul of 75 gold medals.

The region's biggest multi-sport event returns to Singapore this year from June 5 to 16.

This newspaper's theme for the Games is "Sport is coming Home". After all, this year's Games has been 22 years in the making.

An entire generation has missed out on the magic of a "home" Games, with myriad foreign faces and foreign stars walking our streets and the hype, hyperbole and hysteria that come with a major sporting event.

Singaporeans of all ages can take in the action as our table tennis stars showcase their world-class skills at the Indoor Stadium.

And head to the Singapore Expo for the chance to see our boxers sweat and bleed for their country.

Then do it all over again the next day, perhaps taking in the rugby 7s at Choa Chu Kang Stadium, hockey at Sengkang Stadium and swimming at the OCBC Aquatic Centre.

Only the SEA Games can deliver this much action. It's hardly the Olympics or Asian Games, but June's event can be critical as Singapore strives to one day fight in the same weight class as New Zealand and Switzerland on sport's grandest stages.

In 1993, our athletes collected a neat 50 golds in our last "home" Games. That record will be surpassed this year.

The Singapore Sports School has emerged to produce talented young graduates every year since 2004.

The Government has pumped in millions to help our athletes realise their full potential through various support programmes, the latest of which is the $40 million Sports Excellence Scholarship initiative.

The $1.33 billion Sports Hub is now reality, with the new National Stadium as its centrepiece.

Our gold-medal haul may be reduced if there is a cut to the current list of 36 sports or if events are trimmed from the original 402.

But The New Paper believes 75 golds is an achievable target because our athletes today dream big and work their socks off to fulfil their ambition.

The opening ceremony at the National Stadium promises to be a spectacle and all tickets have been snapped up.

Half of the 36 sports will be free for fans and the other 18 will be ticketed.

It is slightly unnerving that there has been very little fanfare in the heartland so far. It may still be early days but for these Games to succeed, both in and out of the arena, it is imperative that the people come out in force to back the event.

I am sure the SEA Games Organising Committee will have a publicity drive, probably featuring past and present stars, to raise awareness of and appetite for the Games.

More than 7,000 athletes and officials will converge here with their dreams of glory. Team Singapore alone will have around 700 athletes, dwarfing the previous biggest contingent of 483 in 1993.

For our 700 to hit the magic mark of 75 gold medals, the support of the people, and the louder the better, could well make the difference between victory and defeat. Even if we achieve the target, many of our athletes will still go home empty-handed. The tyranny of sports dictates that there will always be more losers than winners.

But if all our boys and girls have given their best to the point of busting a gut, we can ask no more of them.

If the people have roared them on to the point of losing their voices, we can be proud as a nation of having done right by those who embody our dreams and hopes.

All of us will then have memories to savour and a legacy to protect, and we can truly say that sport did come home in 2015.

That, The New Paper says, is a victory for the ages.

This article was first published on April 16, 2015.
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