A cherished flame to light

Forty-two years ago, in 1973, the honour was bestowed upon legendary sprinter C Kunalan.

Ten years later, the mastermind behind Singapore track and field's glory years, the late Tan Eng Yoon, was the chosen one.

And in 1993, the last time the South-east Asia (SEA) Games was held in Singapore, bowling queen Grace Young was handed the honour.

With just 38 days to go before the region's biggest multi-sport competition opens in Singapore once again, a burning question doing the rounds is: Who will light the Games cauldron at the National Stadium on June 5?

It is always the biggest secret for any Games and organisers are not letting on.


Singapore SEA Games Organising Committee chairman Lim Teck Yin kept his lips sealed at yesterday's press conference at the Black Box auditorium, where the medals for the event were unveiled, along with details of the closing ceremony.

The Games cauldron will be placed at a location outside the National Stadium and on the identity of the final torch bearer who will light the flame, Lim, who is also the Sport Singapore chief executive, would only say: "The person must be someone people recognise, one that people are fans of, and the person must have contributed a lot to sport in Singapore."

Then, turning to his Sport Singapore team, he quipped: "I've already said too much!"

When contacted by The New Paper, figures in the local sports fraternity were divided.

Bowler Remy Ong said sporting excellence should be the main criterion when selecting the individual.

"I think it should be the person with the most (SEA Games) gold medals," said the 2003 Sportsman of the Year and triple Asian Games gold medallist.

"Since it's Joscelin (Yeo, swimmer), then it should be her because I hope that gold-winning aura can rub off on our Team Singapore athletes."

Swmming queen Yeo amassed a whopping 60 SEA Games medals over eight editions, and her haul of 40 golds is the most by any athlete in the history of the event.

The 35-year-old left competitive swimming after the 2006 Asian Games and is now the Singapore Swimming Association's vice-president (swimming).

James Wong, the 10-time SEA Games champion and former discus king, felt there was only one person who should be given the honour.

"My choice to light the cauldron would be Tan Howe Liang," he said.

"He put Singapore sports on the world map by becoming our first Olympic medallist and we should never forget that."

Former weightlifter Tan, now 81, won silver at the 1960 Rome Olympics in the lightweight category.

He was a torch-bearer at the 1993 SEA Games and ran the first leg of a 500km, 48-hour torch relay which involved 70,000 people.

Wong also suggested that a group of 50 former sportsmen and women who have made an impact in Singapore sport since 1965 be the torch-bearers.


Singapore Bowling Federation president Jessie Phua, meanwhile, said having a mix of old and new could be the right option.

While names like swimming's Yeo and weightlifter Tan the have been bandied about, there are some who feel a current sporting icon, like trailblazing swimmer Joseph Schooling, could help a legend light the cauldron and mark a new chapter in Singapore sport.

Said Phua: "We should have sporting glory from past and present.

"We should not forget the sporting heroes of the past but, at the same time, having a current star will have a higher level of engagement with today's Singaporeans.

"Whoever they pick, I certainly don't envy the one who will make the choice because there have been so many athletes who have brought glory to Singapore over the years."


This article was first published on April 28, 2015.
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