Ser Miang Ng, vice-president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), put forward his vision Sunday to mobilize young people into greater unity and cooperation using sport.
Ng is one of six candidates standing for the IOC Presidency at the Session in Buenos Aires on September 10 and youth sport is an integral aspect of the Singaporean’s message.
As the organizer of the inaugural Asian Youth Games it is unsurprising that he should hold movements for youngsters, and especially this one, in such high regard but the genuine nature of his passion was striking.
“We have to make our movement a part of daily life and put sport at the service of human kind,” he told insidethegames here where he is attending the second Asian Youth Games, which opened on Friday (August 16).
“Our commitment and heritage began 120 years ago with Baron de Coubertin and it remains to provide education and progress through sport.
“There is still a great social divide between young people from the poorest and richest nations and through sport we can bridge that gap.”
Ng was head of the Organizing Committee for the 2010 Summer Youth Olympic Games in his native Singapore and, as part of the preparation for that event, he introduced the inaugural Asian Youth Games a year earlier in 2009.
The lessons that were learned then will prove invaluable elsewhere in the world in the future and are already evident here, he claimed.
“For Singapore to make a successful Youth Olympics we thought it would be much better to have an event one year before which would give us and the IOC the opportunity to experience the Games,” he said.
“It allowed us to put the sports together and also to test the culture and education programs – and was a huge success.
“In Nanjing now we have already witnessed one of the most memorable Opening Ceremonies ever, full of youthful energy, technology and a true reflection of the spirit of the Games.
“The competition is off to a wonderful start, especially for China after they won the first gold medal, and I am very confident ahead of the Youth Olympics next year.”
Although the obvious significance of the Youth Games relates to a first experience of elite-level competition they also have implications at far more than merely a competitive level.
This particularly involves the cultural presentations pioneered in Singapore, and repeated in the cultural center in the Athletes’ Village here, and this is something especially close to Ng’s heart.
“The Youth Olympic Games were conceived with two equally important parts – sport is one and culture and education is the other,” he said.
“One thing that really touched me in Singapore was people who had competed against each other would join together afterwards in shared activities – they were sharing their lives together and to come together as friends and partners and colleagues – that is a distinguishing element.
“The Games are a catalyst for openness and will bring about better understanding, respect and values.
“We want to create the champions of the future but we also want to create the platform for athletes to be educated and to learn about important issues such as doping as well as to make friends for life.”
Doping is one of the most pressing issues within the Olympic Movement and Ng sees the Games as a means to promote a “moral fabric of society” where the medical and ethical consequences of doping are realized at a young age.
As this is something which has continued to wield significance at senior levels in 2013 this attempt to create a grassroots “moral fabric” does indeed seem an effective long-term solution.
In Singapore the post-2010 legacy has included the Ministry of Education and the Singapore Academy working with young people in schools, as well as a program, facilitated through social networking, where every school in Singapore would link up with a National Olympic Committee (NOC) before, during and after the Games.
“It created so many wonderful memories and so much momentum and public energy – we developed a Singapore spirit,” said Ng.
“We had many physical legacies but also human ones involving the athletes, organizers and the volunteers.
“There were also young journalists and young presenters who I keep bumping into now – one of them is now working full time for one of the biggest papers in the country.”
Ng has already put forward many ideas of how to extend these schemes beyond Singapore and Asia to the rest of the world, with a planned extension of the IOC’s Sports for Hope Project to 80 different countries one example.
Although youth sport is clearly alive and well in Asia and Europe, the next challenge is to extend this to new areas – such as Latin America with the awarding of the 2018 Summer Youth Olympics to Buenos Aires – and Africa.
This is another area about which Ng is confident that progress is and will continue to be made.
“During my lifetime I am confident that there will be an Olympic Games in Africa,” he said.
I have visited there five times in the last two years and, although they do need more systematic sport to develop capacity and capabilities, they are passionate and committed to do more.
“An African Youth Games would certainly be a good start.”
Inside the Games is a blog of the London Organizing Committee that helped put on the 2012 Summer Olympics. This article is reprinted here with permission of the authors of the blog.