Monday, 30 August 2010

Youth Olympics: done and dusted! Time to host the ‘real’ Olympic Games?

Singapore's international reputation as an efficient and 'liveable' city went up a few notches following the successful hosting of the inaugural Youth Olympic Games. If nothing else, at least the foreign participants will appreciate there is more to Singapore than fines and prohibitions on chewing gum!
Merly and Lyo, the mascots of the Singapore Youth Olympic Games (2010)

Singapore's standing as a global centre of meetings, incentives travel, conventions and exhibitions (MICE) was firmly established in 2006 with the hosting of the World Bank – International Monetary Fund annual meeting.
Today, with the integrated resorts (casinos) up and running, the attractiveness of the lion city as a MICE destination has improved.
Nevertheless, with over one million monthly foreign visitors can the authorities afford to complacently bask in the glory of their recent triumphs, i.e. what's the next step for 'Brand Singapore?'
For starters, some immediate investment in physical infrastructure is required. Surely, it will be nice to know that Orchard Road will not suffer from flooding each time the city reels from a thunderstorm. Or that Singapore's subway system will soon need to employ professional 'pushers' to make people fit into carriages before train doors are shut, like in Tokyo.
Longer term, Singapore must build upon the success of the Youth Olympics.
It's time to start preparing a bid to host the 'real' Olympic Games sometime in the next decade! However, for practical and political reasons, let's share the Olympic glory with neighbouring Malaysia. Singapore's infrastructure maybe world class but size does impose certain limitations.
A joint bid with Malaysia has many advantages – it underscores the close relations between the two neighbours; helps brand the two countries as a collective tourist destination; increases the breadth of the games by adding cities such as Kuala Lumpur, Penang and Malacca as event venues.
Bilaterally, a joint Singapore-Malaysia bid will force the two nations to increase cooperation at the nuts and bolts level even more than is the case presently. Perhaps residents of both countries may see an improvement in transport infrastructure linking the two nations, fewer traffic jams on the Causeway!
Obviously, such an idea cannot succeed without a proper cost-benefit analysis. Instituting a joint Singapore-Malaysian bilateral commission to study the feasibility of a joint Olympic Games bid might be a good place to start.

If 'Brand Singapore' is not to get tired during the 2020s, Singapore must consider fresh ways to project the city-state internationally. Sceptics of the idea may note that if adversaries such as Pakistan and India could work together to jointly host the 1996 Cricket World Cup (granted it's a smaller event) then surely Singapore-Malaysia can overcome obstacles to jointly organizing a winning bid for the Olympic Games.

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