Whether they are serving at the frontlines or behind the scenes, members of City Harvest Church pitch in to help make the Singapore Youth Olympic Games a success.
Contributed By Jeremy Chua & Yong Yung Shin
With such a momentous and monumental event such as the inaugural Youth Olympic Games being held in Singapore, the onus is on Singapore to set a high bar for future hosts of the YOG to follow. Synergy among the entire team, from the organizing committee members to the volunteers, is an important ingredient.
Torchbearers: Passing It On
Given that the Flame heralds the start of the Games, the torchbearer holds a particularly distinguished position, embodying the Olympic values of Excellence, Friendship and Respect. It was therefore fitting that entrepreneur and businesswoman Elim Chew was selected to be the first torchbearer of the Singapore leg of the Youth Olympic Flame, paving the way for 2,399 other torchbearers who will complete the torch relay.
By tapping on a keen business sense and the courage to not only dream big but pursue the dream, Chew set up the fashion label 77th Street, which has since grown to be the epicenter of all things cool and trendy among the youth. Not merely about personal success, Chew is known for her various non-profit efforts among the youth, as well as her tireless promotion of social entrepreneurship for the betterment of the community at large.
Describing the experience as one beyond words, Chew says, “I am so proud and happy to be a Singaporean, to be able to be an advocate for the Youth Olympic Games from the bidding stage to seeing the reality of the Games. It’s about putting our words into action and making a mark for Singapore.”
|CN PHOTOS: Michael Chan
PHOTO COURTESY CHLOE LIEW, DANIEL SNG,
JENNIFER HENG AND JANET ONG
For Shawn Wong, Head of the National Youth Programmes under the National Youth Council, the opportunity to represent his team in the torch relay was “interesting and memorable.” He says, “It was a great privilege to be able to carry the first ever torch of the YOG.” Wong is also responsible for coordinating the community projects that will be held within the grounds of the Olympic Village. “As these athletes will not have much time and opportunities to go out of the village to meet the community, the projects aim to bring the community to them.” Through activities like painting clogs with senior citizens, balloon sculpting and drumming with youth, the athletes will be able to experience volunteerism on the ground.
Bringing a cultural element to the Olympic Games Village is Philip Wan, a teacher at Tanglin Secondary School. Besides coordinating the torch relay, which will involve two students from the school, Wan, together with some of his students, are also involved in the Friends@YOG Programme. Under the initiative, each school is paired with a country in order to put up a cultural showcase for the Cultural Village. As such, Wan’s team will be exhibiting the history, arts and culture of Mexico, including famous works by Mexican artists. “It is a heavy responsibility but also an exciting experience, one which I am sure both my students and I will learn and grow from.”
Performers: Gearing Up For Show Time
For logistics officer Sophie Alimin, who was also involved in last year’s NDP, the chance to be involved in the YOG promises a different kind of experience, worth the long hours of practice (sometimes from 2 to 11 p.m. on Saturdays). As part of Urban Drum Crew—a drum band—she will be playing the Chinese drums as well as industrial drums (akin to the “metal bins” used in Stomp productions) during the opening ceremony of the games on Aug. 14.
Says her teammate Jesher Yeh, “Being involved in this event is really an eye-opener for me, as it has given me the opportunity to learn to play a different kind of drum.” Being part of the Strikeforce ministry at CHC, he is used to drumming on a tong tied around his waist.” For the opening ceremony performance, he will be playing on a taiko drum, a large Japanese drum. “While mine is only a small role, I am really excited about being a part of something so important as the drum is a very good instrument to get the YOG ball rolling. It takes the lead in setting the beat for everything that comes after it.”
On the topic of sound, the timing could not get any better for polytechnic student Cheng See Hwee Wendy, who found herself as part of the sound crew for YOG through her internship with the company Sound Tec. Says Cheng, who is pursuing a course in sonic arts, “You have to know how to work the mixing console, and know what each knob is for. You especially have to know your cables well!”
Trying his hand (or in this case, feet) at something entirely new is 17-year-old Toh Yao Rong, who will be taking part in a line dancing performance. Toh, who does not have any prior experience in dance, admits, “I’m a bit nervous, but it’s worth it. It’s my way of helping to serve the nation during such an important event.”
Lim Guan Xian Jared, a Republic Polytechnic student studying for his diploma in biotechnology, the challenge of preparing for his role does not entail long hours of practice but rather ensuring that his costume is fitted and completed on time. Lim will be taking part in a cosplay performance during the closing ceremony of the Games, dressed as a character from the popular Japanese animation series Samurai X, in accordance with the theme of sports and youthfulness.
Workers Behind the Scenes
While the eyes of the entire world will be focused on the more visible aspects of the YOG such as the competitions and the opening ceremony, it is the less glamorous, often-unnoticed work behind the scenes that will make the YOG a resounding success. Hailing from diverse backgrounds, spanning different age groups, and taking on different roles in the YOG, the staff and volunteers in the background are the oil that ensure the smooth running of the YOG cogs.
Daniel Singh, 30, a vocal coach, is one such person. While he may not be in the YOG limelight, he has the important duty of training one of the singers performing the Singapore National Anthem during the opening ceremony. Local beat-boxer, Dharni, who is also performing in the opening ceremony, is training under Singh as well.
Jennifer Heng, 41, who works in the planning division of the Urban Redevelopment Authority, has an unusual role to play in the Games. “I am helping out with the training of volunteers from NTU, NUS, SMU, and ITEs who were chosen as Medal and Mascot Bearers (MMB). They would be under close scrutiny as they would be holding onto the winners’ medals during the victory ceremony after every event, while the VIPs are handing out the medals. They have to look good, and carry themselves well; and that is what I am here to help out with, making sure that they look good.”
Tan Bee Leng, 29, a social worker with the Ministry of Community Development, Youth, and Sports has a rather interesting part to play. “As a brand protection manager, I am in charge of maintaining the YOG brand. I have to look out for non-sponsor brands in the competition venue. This is to protect the interests of the official sponsors as well as to ensure the integrity of the YOG brand.” Besides a brand protection manager, Tan will also be stationed at the pin trading center. Providing an innovative way to encourage interaction among the various countries represented, pin trading is where delegates get to trade pins of different countries with each other, giving them a common ground to start off from, to break the ice and facilitate intercultural appreciation and understanding.
With the Games being a youth-oriented event, it is not surprising that the bulk of volunteers and helpers are youths themselves. However, there is little cause to worry about the safety and welfare of the volunteers, not with people like Desmond Chan around. Chan, 34, is an ITE lecturer. He is stationed at the Marina Barrage as a workforce manager, taking ownership of the manpower planning, and more importantly, the welfare, of the younger volunteers. The public are welcome to enjoy the opening ceremony’s fireworks display, which will be visible from the Marina Barrage. Chan is cautious but eager. “We are not sure what is going to happen on the day itself, but we are excited and ready to go! The fact that we are getting a break from school also helps,” he joked.
Everyone would be heartened to know that the youths are making it their prerogative to make the Games the best that it can be. Students are taking time out of their busy schedules to volunteer in various capacities. Youths like Vincent Kuan, 18, a student at Temasek Polytechnic, who is helping as a kitchen crew, ensures that the meals prepared for the athletes, staff and volunteers are hygienic and tasty. Betty Huang, a 20-year-old student at Singapore Polytechnic, is a transport assistant stationed at Suntec Convention Center, providing directions to the delegates. These individuals show that no role is too small or insignificant for them to play a part.
Even more than their humility is the willingness to take on challenges and responsibilities. Take Yolanda Ng for example. Ng, 19, is currently taking her degree in communication from the University at Buffalo program offered by the Singapore Institute of Management. She tells us more about her role as a call room judge. “The call room is where the athletes do their final preparations for their events. I have to ensure they are in order according to their lane positions, and check their attire. I also have to make sure that order is kept in the room, and that the athletes do not get too rowdy, or are overly noisy. Although the actual races could be over in an instant, there is plenty of preparation that needs to be done to ensure the races are on schedule.”
Joshua Loh, a 17-year-old student at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, has even more reason than Ng to feel stressed out about his role in the Games. As the assistant to the chief liaison of Liberia’s National Olympic Council, he has to look into every need and request of the team. However, with intensive training which included venue familiarizations and specialized training with regards to any YOG information, and where to find help, Loh is quietly confident that he will be able to make a difference in his own way.
Chloe Liew, 17, a mass communication student at Ngee Ann Polytechnic, was very enthusiastic about the YOG. As a media operations assistant, Liew will be helping out with any media related activities, as well as handling any situation that arises from the media. Expressing her delight at having an opportunity to be part of such a historic event, Liew enthuses, “I feel so privileged to be a volunteer. This is a platform to gain experience and learn from the best, as well as to be exposed to cultures from different countries.” Janet Ong, a 19-year-old ITE student, shares similar sentiments with Liew. Ong, who is a secretariat to the Games’ organizing committee dealing mainly with logistics and communication issues, could not have expressed her excitement more eloquently. “It is going to be awesome!”