By Carolyn Quek & Amelia Tan
STUDENTS in Singapore will be out in full force when the Youth Olympic Games (YOG) hits town in August.
The Education Ministry (MOE) is buying 80,000, or a quarter of the available tickets, for students from primary schools to junior colleges to watch both preliminary and final competitions during the Aug 14 - 26 event.
The ministry declined to say how much money would be spent on the tickets or whether there had been any concessions given.
Tickets - all general admission - are being sold to the public at $10 for the preliminary rounds and $30 for the final medal rounds.
MOE's bulk-buying of tickets has given a boost to overall YOG ticket sales, which, to date, have been sluggish.
Out of an overall 320,000 tickets put up for sale, only about 20,000 tickets have been taken up by the public since the launch on March 31.
Explaining the purchase, MOE's director for education programmes Sum Chee Wah said it had been done to ensure that students here have the opportunity to support local and foreign athletes while enjoying the spirit of sports competition.
All schools will be allotted tickets and, as far as possible, be matched to watch the preliminary competitions that involve their twinned National Olympic Committees (NOC).
This twinning initiative, known as Friends@YOG, was introduced in November 2008 and pairs Singapore schools with schools from the home countries of each of the 204 other participating NOCs.
Sixty per cent of ticket costs will be borne by MOE while the remainder will be paid by the schools.
It is, however, up to the schools to decide the ultimate cost borne by students, it added.
The ministry has been a huge supporter over the months in the lead-up to the games. For example, it rescheduled the school sports calendar this year so that most competitions in the National Schools Games will be held in the first half of the year.
This is to allow student athletes here more time to support and enjoy the YOG.
The ministry also said schools may make adjustments to school-based assessments or curriculum time so that they will not be held during the games.
One school, Qifa Primary in West Coast, will not be postponing classes but it will help those who attend the games to catch up with lessons.
Principal Debra Saw said that the school is also buying an extra 70 tickets - on top of those allotted by MOE - for the volleyball and basketball competitions.
While volleyball is the school's niche sport, Ms Saw said that the school also wants to develop its basketball team and feels that the exposure of watching the sport will be useful.
North Vista Secondary in Sengkang, however, will be postponing and rescheduling lessons and co-curricular activities if necessary for students to attend the YOG.
Apart from the tickets MOE will be allotting to the school, North Vista also plans to purchase another 1,500 tickets.
This is to ensure that every student and staff member has the opportunity to witness at least one YOG competition, said school principal Lim Lai Chuan.
This article was first published in The Straits Times.