Members of public bore witness to the unfurling of the Team Singapore flag for a second time during the flag presentation. photo: Ding An/SportSG
Typically carrying a certain degree of formality, flag presentation ceremonies for international sporting meets often involve the handing of a country’s flag over to its contingent in grand fashion, complete with an oath and smatterings of applause.
However, Team Singapore opted to organise a distinctly unusual one this year.
Held at OCBC Square at the Singapore Sports Hub, the casual setting gave rise to something akin to a big picnic for the 28th SEA Games contingent, with food, light-sticks and a very spirited cheering session. Not forgetting the ceremony portion either, where swimmer Quah Ting Wen and artistic gymnast Hoe Wah Toon were bestowed the roles of flag bearer and pledge taker respectively.
The flag presentation, graced by Ministers Lawrence Wong and Tan Chuan-Jin, chefs de mission Nicholas Fang and Tan Eng Liang, as well as retired national athletes, was preceded by an exciting line-up of evocative segments. The programme featured a harmony of elements from the past, present, and future, designed specifically to motivate the athletes and foster solidarity.
“I think, in a way, it really pulls together all the best elements of sports. You have a little bit of the history and the heritage, the legacy of champions who have come before us,” remarked Fang.
“It’s only fitting that, when we have the largest contingent ever, that we should do something on a grander scale, so that everybody has a chance to be a part of it.”
Hoe concurred, as he shared the influence of the evening on his fellow athletes: “Today’s event serves as a good opportunity for all the athletes to get to mingle, and at the same time, get inspired by the different segments. I think, in the build-up to the SEA Games, it’s important that our spirits are high.”
The evening kicked off with the induction of three new sporting icons into the Sports Hall of Fame. Those honoured were table tennis Olympic medallist and current world number four Feng Tianwei, retired paddler Wang Yuegu, who was a member of the team that won Singapore two Olympic medals, and Paralympics swimming champion Yip Pin Xiu, the first para-athlete to be inducted.
Team Singapore paddler Feng Tianwei was one of three athletes inducted into the Sports Hall of Fame. photo: Ding An/SportSG
This was followed by a tribute to our late founding Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, which saw the athletes reflecting on the values – pride, perseverance, and performance – that he had advocated, and their relevance to sporting success.
Additionally, a Team Singapore artefact made from 46 squares hand-painted by the national captains, was unveiled in honour of Lee. Titled “His Story, Our Legacy”, the art piece was completed by the two ministers and chefs de mission in attendance, whose own squares formed the rallying call “#oneteamsg”.
“We are all inspired by the contributions of Mr. Lee Kuan Yew. He had the courage to go after his dream of Singapore and, as a result, we are all enjoying and benefitting from his legacy,” golfer Koh Sock Hwee said.
“I painted a picture of the sky to remind myself that I shouldn’t put a mental limit on the goals that I can achieve. We should all have the courage to dare to dream.”
Emphasising the importance of being “role models and leaders” even as they pursued sporting excellence, Koh urged her fellow sportspeople on: “It is only through staying true to a larger calling of inspiring our fellow Singaporeans that we can indeed say that [Lee’s] legacy has inspired Singapore sports.”
The national flag was then presented to Quah, while Hoe led the country’s biggest-ever contingent in the Athletes’ Pledge. An enormous Team Singapore flag was unfurled and borne by the entire contingent in a symbolic gesture that exemplified the notion of a single Team Singapore, regardless of sport and event.
“I just hope that all the athletes realise that while everyone may be focused on their own sport and trying to do well, [we will] realise that we’re not alone, that we have people in the stands [and from other sports] supporting [us],” professed Quah.
Indeed, the picture of a nation united was clear, as all of them – officials and athletes both past and present – stood under the flag, bound by a common history and purpose as they readied themselves for the SEA Games 2015 journey that lay ahead.
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong (left) and chefs de mission Tan Eng Liang share a light moment at the Flag Presentation ceremony. photo: Ding An/SportSG