Singaporeans should rally behind and inspirethe nation's athletes towards gold-medal winning performances at the upcoming SEA Games and ASEAN Para Games, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said yesterday.
The spotlight will not be just on the athletes at these events, but also on all Singaporeans coming together as "One Team Singapore", Mr Wong told Parliament.
Both events, which Singapore will host, will also serve to further strengthen the culture of sports among Singaporeans, he said while giving an update on his ministry's sports masterplan.
Speaking during the debate on his ministry's budget, Mr Wong said: "There are few things in life that rally our emotions and fire up the Singapore spirit like sports."
"And there has never been a better opportunity for Singaporeans to come together."
Singapore will be fielding its largest contingents for both Games - close to 700 athletes for the 28th SEA Games in June and more than 100 athletes for the 8th ASEAN Para Games in December.
Mr Wong called on all employers to give their employees time off to attend the events.
On MCCY's part, it has made sure ticketed events at the SEA Games are affordable, he said.
Members of the public can receive up to 20 per cent discount for group purchase of tickets.
Friends and family members of Singapore athletes can also buy better-discounted tickets - likely to be as much as 30 per cent - through the respective national sports associations.
As for the athletes, some 400 of them are benefiting from the Final Push Programme (FPP), which provides more grants for training, coaching and equipment expenses ahead of the June 5-16 SEA Games.
The Straits Times understands that about 140 para-athletes will also enjoy these grants, before the Dec 3-9 ASEAN Para Games.
Besides helping Singapore athletes, Mr Wong said MCCY will also boost sporting opportunities for young Singaporeans.
The ActiveSG initiative, launched in April last year to encourage a sporting lifestyle among Singaporeans, has seen more than 700,000 sign up as members.
Of these, about three in five members have used their $100 ActiveSG free credits to pay for facilities or sports programmes.
Next, the initiative will be extended to schools to complement their sports curriculum, he added.
For example, through the School Holiday Sports Programmes, students can sample a variety of new sports, such as archery, floorball and futsal.
ActiveSG can also help strengthen existing CCA sports programmes. For instance, it has partnered the Basketball Association of Singapore for a new developmental league for school teams knocked out early in the zonal competitions.
As for young people who are keen to pursue sports as a career, Mr Wong said the Singapore Sports School (SSP) is in the midst of refining the development pathway of its student athletes.
The school recently completed a review of its first 10 years, and the review committee will release its full report later this year.
One idea is for SSP to offer six-year-plus through-train programmes, and to work with more institutes of higher learning to provide more post-secondary pathways for athletes.
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