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The Youth Olympic Games (YOG) is turning out to be an unmitigated disaster. It is running way over budget (projected spending is close to $400 million, triple the original budget of $104 million) and attracting the interest of no one in particular (more than 90 percent of Singaporeans don’t know what it is, mush less care about it).
How did this Government get it so wrong? You don’t need to be President Scholars to calculate that in a year when the World Cup is staged, you don’t try to compete with it for attention in the sports world. That’s not rocket science, it’s just plain common sense.
In the hard and real world of sports, who is going to pay to watch 14-18-year-olds compete especially after the football mania in South Africa? (This is in the aftermath of the authorities charging an arm and a leg to watch the World Cup when many of our neighbours in Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia got to watch the matches inexpensively or even free?)
Only a small percentage of the YOG tickets (about six percent) has been sold to the public. As a result, our school students have been mobilised by the Ministry of Education to attend the events.
Not only did our expensive cabinet not foresee the World Cup timing debacle and overestimated the public’s interest in the YOG, it has completely underestimated the operating budget.
Admittedly, budgeting is not a simple process; things will go wrong even with the best-made plans. But to be $300 million over-budget in a one-off event that has a fixed start- and end-period is unforgivable. In such a scenario, revenue and expenditure can be estimated with considerable accuracy.
So how did the Government get it so wrong? Over-spending by three times the original budget signals massive incompetence.
It gets worse. World-renowned athletes Messrs Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt are giving the event here a miss – and they are appointed International Olympic Committee ambassadors! If IOC ambassadors cannot come to an IOC event, why did we bother to host it in the first place?
On top of this, it is reported that the Singapore Government agreed to pay nearly $1 million to refurbish a stadium in Jamaica in return for Mr Bolt’s help in marketing the YOG. What has come of the deal now that Mr Bolt is not coming?
In a nutshell, we’re spending $400,000,000 to stage an event that no one really cares about. Contrast this to the $110 million that this Government puts aside for social programmes for our needy. Such profligacy can only happen it a autocratic state. No government in a democracy knowing that it will be held accountable for the dollars it spends would be so bold with public money.
Like many events in the recent past such as the Mas Selamat escape, the MRT break-in, and the floods, there needs to be some accounting. Regarding the present matter the PAP needs to answer some questions:
- How was the budget prepared and why was there such a huge discrepancy? Were the planners sloppy in their work?
- Who is responsible for this mistake?
- More importantly, where will the funds for the short-fall come from?