Flash sets a benchmark for local athletics
Minister Shanmugam, guest of honour at Flash Athletics Club's 50th anniversary dinner, says national athletics body must get its house in order
Sitting beside Singapore swimming hero Ang Peng Siong and former Non-Constituency MP Lina Chiam, I couldn't help but mull over a subject that had been on my mind over the years as a long-time sports journalist.
"Can sports and politics mix?", I wondered again while taking a stroll down memory lane at Flash Athletics Club's 50th anniversary dinner at Mandarin Orchard two nights ago.
No doubt, politicians have played major roles in Singapore sport as enunciated in the speeches and conversations.
Many also paid tribute to the late E.W. Barker, a veteran Cabinet member who, as president of the Singapore National Olympic Council, raised the ante for sports promotion here.
And, as evidenced in the many national sports associations helmed by politicians, we have seen an upsurge in interest and better financial status, with corporate governance being a critical component in their running of sports bodies.
But it was politics of another kind that also surfaced as guest-of-honour K. Shanmugam, the Law and Home Affairs Minister, broached the subject as he rightly struck a chord about the dire state of the national athletics association.
May we go on to even greater heights in the next 50 years.Former national sprinter Chee Swee Lee, in a message for Flash Athletics Club from her home in the United States
In short, what the minister said in his speech was that the house must be put in order for the sport to regain its past glory.
A glory towards which Flash contributed hugely in the form of gold-medal athletes such as Chee Swee Lee, Haron Mundir, Hamkah Afik, Muhamad Hosni, U.K. Shyam and Prema Govindan.
In contrast to what is happening in Singapore Athletics, which has been battered by the politics of envy and in-fighting, Flash, led by the passionate lawyer, Edmond Pereira, has been progressing as a club to be admired.
As Pereira, the club president since 1981, said: "It has been a long journey since 1968, and it is with great pride and distinction that our athletes have been excelling in local and international scenes over the decades.
"We will strive to revitalise the athletics scene and inspire the next generation of athletes."
Who would have believed that this club - which was formed 50 years ago to support Katong District athletes who did not have a premise then and worked out of the address of a committee member's Lorong Stangee home - is today a vital cog in our sports scene?
As Pereira pointed out, that has come about also because of the dedication of coaches such as Patrick Zehnder, Lim Hong Kang and Pritam Lim, without whom, as former hurdler Alexis Lee put it: "We would not have been disciplined athletes but McDonald's kids."
Underlining Pereira's call, Chee, in a message from her home in the United States, wrote: "Though we are separated by a great distance, I will always be a proud member of Flash. May we go on to even greater heights in the next 50 years."