Top sports official Dr Tan launches book
Top sports administrator Tan Eng Liang launches autobiography
Ten days before he was due to leave for the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, Dr Tan Eng Liang suffered a slipped disc when he fell at home and was rushed to hospital.
Doctors and his family members persuaded the then 71-year-old to not travel to China, where he was to serve as Singapore's chef de mission to the Games, but the former national water polo player insisted on going, and asked his doctors for stronger painkillers to manage the pain.
"I badly wanted to lead the Singapore team to Beijing and I felt it was my responsibility to finish the mission I had already started on months before," he wrote in his autobiography Simple Beginnings: Building A Life Of Integrity, Resilience And Service.
Even urinary blockage could not stop the veteran administrator from travelling for the 2008 Games, as he learned to insert catheters himself so that he could manage his condition in Beijing.
Luckily, his newfound skills did not come into use in China.
These are values that Tan, now 79, hopes to impart to younger generations of Singaporeans through his book, which was launched yesterday morning at the UTown's Stephen Riady Centre.
"Humility, commitment and hard work, these are values worth pursuing, and that if you work hard and dare to dream, you may have a chance," said the former Senior Minister of State for National Development, and later Finance.
The project started not long after the death of Tan's close friend and sports administrator, Lau Teng Chuan, in 2012, and started out as a record for the family to pass down the generations.
But a meeting with Bernice Lee of Graceworks Publishing last year resulted in a book contract, with more than half of the first run of 1,000 books sold, and a second run in the works.
Written by his daughter Lynn, the 190-page book chronicled Tan's early days as an athlete representing Singapore at major competitions such as the Olympics, his political and working lives, his family, as well as his work in sports, where he was instrumental in formulating sports participation policies (as the Singapore Sports Council chairman for 16 years) and the construction of the iconic Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Guests yesterday included Deputy Prime Minister Teo Chee Hean, Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, former MPs and local sporting personalities such as C Kunalan.
Speakers at the launch, which included Singapore's Ambassador-at-Large and long-time friend Tommy Koh, joked about Tan's direct "bang table" approach, but also spoke about his humility and willingness to learn.
Koh said: "The test of a man is whether a man changes after becoming rich and powerful and, despite his extraordinary success, he did not change.
"He is someone from an ordinary, middle-class family who has made Singapore proud in many ways."
In his speech, Tan joked about his direct nature and said: "There are many details that I was thinking of putting in, but I was afraid that I might be sued by whoever I was describing."
To much laughter from the crowd, he added: "Bernice asked if I was sure, and I therefore deleted quite a few of those controversial comments. I can assure you that generally there will be no slander (in this book)."
Simple Beginnings is sold at all major bookstores and on www.graceworks.com.sg for $40.
- LIM SAY HENG