Value of sports not in medals, but nationhood

The grand finale of the opening ceremony of the 28th SEA Games hosted by Singapore.

It was a touching moment at the finale of the SEA Games opening ceremony last Friday, which featured football's Fandi Ahmad with his son Irfan and badminton's Wong Shoon Keat with his son Derek ("Honour goes to Fandi and Irfan"; last Saturday).

Besides Irfan and Derek, I also know of several children of former athletes competing in this year's SEA Games.

The value of sports does not lie in the medals won.

What is most valuable is the solidarity and pride that come from rallying together as a nation to support our athletes in their quest.

It was especially touching seeing fencer Lim Wei Wen personally pushing his grandmother in just before the start of the team epee quarter-finals.

There is also the story of young Alastair Shee, from fencer Aloysius Low's primary school, who, in anticipation of the event, created a fencing robot which won in a robotic competition.

There are many such touching stories, which are more valuable than any medal in inspiring and rallying us together as a nation.

I, therefore, disagree with Mr Samuel Yat Qi Han that we need to bring in foreign sports talent to raise our sporting standards ("Foreign sports talent fly Singapore's flag high"; Forum Online, Monday).

There is no dire need for us to be competing or winning in every sport. We can focus on sports that we have enough talents in and nurture those talents.

While we can welcome talents, we do not need to go so far as to pay and import an entire team from overseas in order to win some medals.

Nationhood is about building on the work of earlier generations, not instant import.

The "national pride" that any win by an imported team with no roots in the community brings tends to be more polarising than unifying.

We may not win an Olympic medal in our generation if we rely on solely home-grown talent, but we will eventually achieve that, even if that may take many generations.

This article was first published on June 10, 2015.
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