Volunteers ready to show they are great hosts for SEA Games
By all accounts, the benchmark for hosting a successful multi-sport event would be the Sydney Olympics in 2000.
Recognised as the best Games in the history of the Olympics, it received universal acclaim, with the thousands of volunteers and Sydneysiders lauded, in particular, by visitors and international media, who couldn't get enough of the warmth, hospitality and feel-good factor they raised during the event.
Singapore will show off 17,000 volunteers when the 2015 South-east Asia (SEA) Games are held here from June 5 to 16.
While he appreciates the magic stirred by the volunteer corps at the 2000 Olympics, Sport Singapore chief executive Lim Teck Yin said last night that the team for the SEA Games will display their own unique style to light up the event.
Speaking on the sidelines of a Volunteer Appreciation Night organised by Sport Singapore at Universal Studios, Lim told The New Paper: "I don't think the volunteers in Singapore need to be encouraged by comparing them to Sydney or to Glasgow (host of the 2014 Commonwealth Games).
"Singaporeans have their own flavour and our volunteers have demonstrated that since they stepped forward.
"In all the team-building sessions they have shown energy, passion and that they're ready to be great hosts.
"Our job is not only to facilitate them to be great hosts, but also to energise them for the long term."
Organised to acknowledge their commitment and dedication, over 5,000 volunteers attended the event at Sentosa's Waterworld yesterday.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Lawrence Wong, the guest-of-honour, paid tribute to the volunteers in his speech, saying: "I'm very encouraged by the overwhelming response of Singaporeans across all walks of life to volunteer at the SEA Games.
"Volunteers give their time and expertise to a range of critical tasks, so that athletes can focus on their events, and spectators can have a good experience.
"I hope this spirit of sports volunteerism will energise and inspire more Singaporeans to step forward and volunteer in other areas, too."
Volunteer recruitment began soon after the official launch of the SEA Games in February last year and they have attended training sessions and workshops for their respective assignments.
The 17,000 volunteers, under the brand "Team Nila" - Nila is the mascot of the Games - will now undergo a series of detailed assignments for their roles in June, which will range across several fields, including venue operations, ushers and information technology and logistics.
As volunteers, they will receive only meal allowances and an EZLink card, the value of which is still to be finalised.
Said Lim: "We have stopped actively recruiting volunteers because we've reached our limit.
"The sports volunteer movement is something we will frame for (Vision) 2030. These Games give us a catalyst, but we're looking beyond it."
Lim also drove home the message that Singaporeans need to get behind their athletes and embody the spirit demonstrated by the volunteers.
Tickets for certain events at the Games are already on sale and the early demand, Lim added, has been encouraging.
"Singaporeans are interested in the SEA Games and, through the media, we want them to know what's at stake," said the former national water polo captain, who won multiple SEA Games gold medals in the '80s and '90s.
"When our football team play, we want them to know the challenges, who the main opponents are, and what they can expect.
"Likewise for our badminton, swimming and table tennis teams. Our 4x100 (men's) swim team narrowly lost the gold two years ago (in Myanmar) and they want to come out and make history.
"Our whole Team Singapore will make history, if we get behind them."
They breathe the spirit of the Games
He was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia at age three, but Sheam Kanan has been in remission for the past 11 years.
He is now 23, and currently in National Service. Kanan (below) loves sport, and he loves to be involved in sport.
He is eager to volunteer to help, and will be the assistant venue workforce manager at the Singapore Indoor Stadium when the 2015 South-east Asia (SEA) Games is held here from June 5 to 16.
He will among a group of 10 managers who will oversee the logistical needs of a team of around 100 volunteers when the venue hosts the table tennis and badminton events.
Speaking to The New Paper at the Volunteer Appreciation Night at Universal Studios Singapore, Kanan said: "When I was younger and going through constant treatment for my leukaemia, I didn't feel good about myself.
"So I decided to pick up sports like football and table tennis and, eventually, I got interested in the events side of it all, so I decided to become a volunteer. It's a good opportunity to meet new people and, of course, stay active."
Kanan started volunteering in December 2013, when he signed up to be part of the Big Hand crew at the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore, urging the runners on along the route with high fives.
He was a volunteer at last year's National Day Parade and tennis' WTA Finals Singapore.
While Kanan represents the younger generation who make up the majority of the 17,000 volunteers, Tang Chun Tuck is at the other end of the spectrum.
The 62-year-old retiree, who will be a media relations officer, volunteered at the first two Games which Singapore hosted, the first in 1973 and then in 1983.
He was a "first aider" back then, but decided to shift to something new this time round.
"I felt that I should try something new such as liaising with the media during the Games.
"I just couldn't resist the lure of being a part of such a big occasion, especially on the country's 50th year of independence."
- HAIQAL SARI
About the 2015 SEA Games
The 28th South-east Asian Games will be held here from June 5 to 16, with the preliminary rounds of football beginning on May 29.
About 7,000 athletes from 11 participating nations will compete in the Games, which will feature 36 sports in 402 events across 30 venues.
At the centre-piece of the Games is the Singapore Sports Hub, which will host most of the events.
The Singapore Expo halls will host boxing, judo and silat, while the Marina cluster will see the Traditional Boat Race and various sailing events.
- ALI KASIM