The Youth Olympic Games (YOG) attracted as many negative comments as it did praises, but no one can deny the hard work that the volunteers put in to ensure that the Games ran as smoothly as possible. A large number of our own faculty students sacrificed their holiday and term time to be part of this inaugural international event and here, we bring you their stories…
By Student Blogger Choong Jia Xin
Opportunity is NO Where?
I dare say ‘Opportunity is NOW Here!’
The Singapore 2010 Youth Olympic Games (YOG) was definitely an unforgettable experience that I will cherish. I always believe that we should live life to the fullest and I felt that sense of fulfillment as I volunteered in the Youth Olympic News Service (YONS) for the Singapore Youth Olympic Games Organising Committee (SYOGOC).
Based at the International Convention Centre (ICC) to cover sports like Fencing and Handball, YOG was indeed an eye-opener and I had an amazing journey. It was most interesting to work and befriend people on the YOG workforce from different parts of the world.
I was excited to find out that the Infostrada Sports news service team, known for their coverage of the Olympics e.g. Beijing 2008, Torino 2006 and Athens 2004, would be the
official news service team for YOG. I was in the good hands of friendly senior reporters ever ready to guide me in my volunteer work as an enthusiastic junior reporter.
Initially, I was worried as I had limited knowledge in the field of news reporting. However, after going through the interview for YONS, excitement overcame concerns as I felt better prepared after taking the Communications and New Media (CNM) course, Introduction to Media Writing. I was exposed to terms and styles frequently used in media writing and this was vital as YONS has a high standard of professionalism to maintain when it comes to publishing news to the media. The SYOGOC also conducted two-hour weekly training sessions for six weeks before the Games started. This helped to ensure that YONS reporters would be well-equipped with knowledge on the Games as well as our jobs.
During the Games, there were definitely moments that I would like to relive. One of those moments was when I had the chance to interview China fencer, Lin Sheng, who emerged the winner of YOG’s Cadet Female Individual Epee Gold Medal Match. Fencing is a European dominated sport and I was filled with pride as I saw her strike for her final score. It was a great moment for all Asians, not just the Chinese. Furthermore, during the interview, I was very surprised by how humble and selfless she was about her success. It surprised me even more to know that she is only 16 years old. Lin Sheng is indeed a unique character whom I am so glad to have been acquainted with during YOG.
All in all, I think YOG has been a great experience. It gave me the opportunity to learn, practice journalism hands on, meet new friends and grow as an individual.
By Student Blogger Lim Shi Yun
The Olympic experience is one that is truly unforgettable, regardless of whether one had participated in the Games as an athlete, worked in the organising committee or helped out as a volunteer. This August, I had the chance to gain an insight into this experience through the perspective of being a Media Communications Assistant (MCA) volunteer at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG).
The first thing people always ask me whenever I mentioned that I was volunteering at YOG was about the quality of the food. Thankfully, the problems regarding the quality of the meals for volunteers did not concern me. I was lucky to be helping out at the main media centre, located at the Marina Bay Sands Centre, where the staff and volunteers were able to help themselves to meals buffet-style, with the choices being rotated around a ten-day schedule.
In my opinion, the food was good and I always looked forward to the meals during my duties. One of my lecturers commented that when a big event like the YOG was given negative press coverage on its food quality issues, it really drains the tremendous effort that people have put into planning the event. It reminded me that while it is important to report on stories that have news value, it is imperative that one should not forget to be empathetic towards the people involved in the stories.
The highlight of my stint as a volunteer was when we had to accompany the media on an Exploration Journey to Marina Barrage as one of the Culture & Education Programme (CEP) activities for the youth athletes. The athletes were able to participate in interactive activities at Marina Barrage, which allowed them to learn about sustainable water management. It was especially heart-warming to see foreign youth athletes interacting and playing Frisbee with Singaporean youth at the roof garden, which just shows how sports can bring people together. I will never forget the scene of that leisurely evening, where people of all nationalities had fun together against the backdrop of the mesmerizing view of Singapore’s city skyline.
In addition, I attended a press conference, which happened to feature diving heartthrob, Tom Daley. I remember thinking to myself about the kind of pressure and scrutiny that the YOG athletes must be facing, given their age and knowing that what they said could be headline news the next day. Of course, the conference went smoothly and it occurred to me that the youth athletes truly embodied the Olympic values of Excellence, Friendship and Respect.
some prominent figures in Singapore. On the days where I had roving duty at different events around Singapore, I saw Minister Mentor Lee Kuan Yew, Dr. Vivian Balakrishnan and a few local celebrities. It was fun to see local celebrities with their families who were there to support them as they ran for the torch relay. One of my friends, who was also a volunteer, was even photographed in a picture that the media had taken of Joanne Peh. It was a mix of amusement and fascination to watch an interview on television, knowing that you were just out of the camera’s view. As the torch relay continued around the heartlands of Singapore, it was heartening to see everyone getting more excited and involved in the days leading up to the opening of the Games.
I feel proud to have been part of such a historic event in Singapore, which Olympics chief Jacques Rogge called a “resounding success”. Being able to help out as a MCA gave me the opportunity to get behind the scenes and learn about the efforts that go into planning an international event. It has, indeed, proven to be a fruitful and once-in-a-lifetime experience! I would just like to end with this quote from minister Vivian Balakrishnan that made me feel volunteering for the nation is an invaluable involvement.
He said: “They are the real stars of the Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. I think when all this is over and people have gone home, the enduring memory will be of our volunteers – how they got together, how they delivered. And it is this legacy that will come to define the inaugural Youth Olympics.”
Upon realizing that 14th to 26th of August will be during the second and third academic week, I reconsidered my hankering for a volunteer role in the Youth Olympic Games (YOG). As much as I didn’t mind committing many hours, there are seminars and lectures to take into consideration – especially since I’m on my final year. So when there was a recruitment session in school, I was really hoping I could find a part that would have a more accommodating schedule. After speaking to the very friendly Venue Manager and much deliberation, I signed up to be a Culture & Education Programme (CEP) Station Host for Hort Park along with two good friends. I was also offered a leadership opportunity, which I gladly accepted.
In that CEP venue, the educational theme of social responsibility was emphasized, touching on environmental issues, sustainable development and ultimately creating awareness and inspiring young athletes to play active roles in their communities.
Time quickly flew by, with trainings and briefings I unexpectedly enjoyed (to be honest, reminders for whole day trainings very rarely evoke positive emotions). I met new like-minded and really awesome people – fellow volunteers and SYOGOC members alike, and was guided by encouraging trainers to prepare us to be in tiptop condition for THE day. Before we knew it, we were watching the Opening Ceremony and the excitement mixed with a heap of nervousness could not be contained any longer.
The terrarium workshop by the Hort Park staff was also conducted in the MPH and so I had the chance to help the
athletes in making their terrariums. When they finished making their terrariums much faster than they ought to, some of the talented athletes showed some dandy moves, performed dances or even lip-synced to their favorite songs – whatever it was, everyone surely enjoyed and was clearly entertained. The part of my duty that I loved the most will have to be the mini-awarding ceremony at the end of the day. No matter how tired the athletes were, they always had the energy to shout their group numbers when I ask them who they think is the overall winner was.
Needless to say, I really enjoyed the time I spent mingling with the athletes, coaches, Athlete Role Models (ARM), facilitators, SYOGOC staff, translators, Hort Park staff and all those who made the whole experience wonderful and awesome. I reckon every person involved in YOG has a different story to tell – a beautiful and memorable story one would not trade anything in the world for! (:
Last but not the least, I was also given the chance to be part of the first Youth Olympic Flame’s journey as a torchbearer. And for that, I can only say that IT WAS THE MOST STRESSFUL BUT EXCITING 100m OF MY LIFE! 😀
Shafiqah Song Xiuhua, or just Nadiah, as she doesn’t mind being called, rushes over to shake my hand in the Yusof Ishak House canteen. It’s clear that she’s one busy woman, having rushed over from an MOE attachment and having to rush off once again soon after, giving us only about half-an-hour to chat. She greets me with a wide smile, apologises for being late, and we immediately begin our interview.
Shafiqah, an English Literature Major in FASS, was only in her first year of NUS when she decided to apply for the UNC-NUS Joint Degree Programme, a prestigious partnership between the National University of Singapore and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Come July 2010, she will be part of the pioneering batch of students graduating from both universities, after completing a four-year course both locally and overseas, a feat she only imagined as challenging the first time she heard about it.
“Maybe I was young back then, and thought I would just try for it. I remember they called us all down for a briefing on the programme requirements—there were over a hundred students in the room, all interested in signing up! The tension only increased when one of the professors announced that only about 10 students will be eventually accepted,” Shafiqah exclaimed.
When asked why she signed up for the programme, Shafiqah merely smiled and answered, “I’ve always just wanted to visit the United States and see how life would be like.”
And visit the United States she did—Shafiqah was eventually accepted into the programme and departed for Chapel Hill in 2007, deciding to stay for a total of four semesters on the UNC campus, returning in May 2009.
“It was intimidating at first, definitely, adjusting to the life there. But after the first year, you get used to it, and you just want to make the most of the entire experience.”
She goes on to describe two of her most memorable experiences in UNC: from witnessing the university winning the 2009 National Basketball Championships and thereafter watching the students take to the streets to celebrate—by drinking booze and climbing up lamp-posts; to more personal moments like driving out to a beach with a close-friend she made whilst overseas.
Her most frustrating experience? Having to spend Hari Raya away from her family, she exclaims, and missing her family’s home-cooked food. She remembers breaking fast one day at a friend’s house—having her friend’s Egyptian food for dinner was the closest alternative to her home-cooked food in a long while, and it almost brought her to tears remembering her family.
Nevertheless, she describes the students of Chapel Hill as incredibly friendly and open, the campus-culture as both liberal and conservative at the same time, and Chapel Hill County as a lovely place to visit. But of course, her life overseas was also a combination of work and play, and Shafiqah admits that she had to work extremely hard to maintain her grades over there.
“Your grades matter. That’s what they told us from the beginning,” Shafiqah said, when I compared the joint-degree programme to other overseas student exchange programmes in NUS, like the Student Exchange Program (SEP), which in most cases only continued for two semesters at a time.
She recalls times where being overseas did not feel like being on holiday at all. For example, there were nights where she considered just taking time off to unwind and have fun in town, and there were certainly opportunities for her to do so—but in the end her studies always came first. At UNC, Shafiqah took many interesting modules in English Literature, such as Asian-American studies.
“At UNC, I guess you feel the pressure to perform.”
It seems that the pressure eventually paid off. As a result of her hard work, Shafiqah graduates this year a proud owner of two undergraduate degrees from both universities, with overall first-class honours. I ask her if it was all worth it in the end?
She laughs and answers, “Yes, it was. It was competitive and quite scary at times, intimidating even. But overall, it was an exciting four years. I would recommend other students to sign up for the program in the future.”
Shafiqah is looking forward to enrolling in the National Institute of Education (NIE) this September. She hopes to become a teacher in English Literature in the future.
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