Ng stays calm and is happy with Olympic campaign

Buenos Aires - In sporting parlance, this is the last quarter, the home stretch, the final race. But with just days to go before what could arguably be the biggest day of his life, Singapore's Ng Ser Miang is unfazed. A former sailor, his sporting training is probably kicking in, calming him ahead of this one last hurrah. Win or lose, the man who is one of six running for presidency of the International Olympic Committee can take comfort in a campaign which, he says, has "raised the bar".

"Maybe it's because I'm older, but I'm actually quite calm, happy with the campaign I've run, I've given it my best," said Ng, 64, who is hopeful that his vision of putting youth at the heart of the Olympic movement and a radical approach to empower fellow IOC members is shared by the majority of the 100-odd Olympic family.

On Tuesday, should he beat hot favourite Thomas Bach of Germany and stave off the challenge of Richard Carrion of Puerto Rico, Ng will become the IOC's first Asian president, and only the second non-European.

That he has managed to mount a creditable campaign, pushing Bach, who had for many years been considered as the heir apparent to outgoing IOC president Jacques Rogge, is testament to the great strides he has made since becoming an IOC member in 1998.

"My campaign has got my fellow members to think about their roles within the IOC and the huge potential we have," said Ng in the lobby of the Hilton Buenos Aires, where the 125th IOC Session is held.

"It asks the question of what the fundamental role of the movement is and what members can do to further our cause. President Rogge spoke about how he will be leaving his successor with vast and large tools and resources to serve humanity and I firmly believe that.

"The IOC is a powerful social force and if we have a common, shared vision, there is much more we can do."

His vision of introducing the values of Olympism to the youth of the world is a long-term project. While his competitors, who include Taiwan's Wu Ching-kuo, Ukraine's Sergei Bubka and Switzerland's Denis Oswald, zoom in on the dangers that doping and illegal betting pose to sport, Ng prefers a more macro approach.

With the help of an expanded Youth Sport Development Centres programme, Ng not only hopes to provide more youth in developing countries with access to quality sporting infrastructure, but he also reckons that the early introduction to the Olympic values of respect and fair play will put young athletes on the right path.

He said: "We talk about the drugs and the fight against illegal betting, but if more youth are inculcated with the right values at a young age, then half the battle is won. "It is heartening that at home in Singapore, we are already doing that. The Ministry of Education (MOE) introduced Olympism in our schools when we hosted the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in 2010 and it is good to see that MOE has introduced a holistic education centred on values to our children."

Regardless of whether Ng wins or loses the election, his campaign has helped raise the profile of Asia within the Olympic family. Said Timothy Fok, IOC member from Hong Kong: "We have two strong candidates in the running for president and we have Tokyo hoping to host the 2020 Olympics. There can be no denying that Asian representation is definitely stronger."

Asian countries have hosted two of the last seven Summer Games, the first two Youth Olympic Games, and will host their first Winter Games in 20 years in 2018. "It's great for Asian sport that we are making such strides," said Tunku Imran, IOC member from Malaysia who is in the running for a seat at the Executive Board, the committee's highest executive branch.

"It's time we are recognised for the potential we can bring." Yet, as much as a campaign is about spreading one's vision and beliefs, Ng's IOC presidential candidate journey has also been one of self-discovery. A soft-spoken man, he took pains to improve his oratory skills and even took French classes. His speech in May to announce his campaign was done partially in French.

And because of his constant travels in the last year, he also grew to cherish family more, after spending quality time on ski vacations. His wife and three kids are with him in Argentina. "It's been a truly amazing journey, and perhaps the most important lesson that I've learnt from talking to members is that the depth of my colleagues' passion and commitment is no less than mine," said Ng. "Their belief in serving the movement puts the IOC in good stead.

Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to straitstimes.com for more stories.