26 February 2010

YOG Culture and Education Programme

Youth Olympic Games is more than just winning medals@CNA

SINGAPORE: The Olympic Games has always been the pinnacle sporting event for athletes wanting to establish themselves as the numero uno sportsman in the world.

However, at the coming Youth Olympic Games Singapore 2010, it's not just about winning medals, as the inaugural Games has already been labeled as an event that encompasses sport, culture and education.

To achieve that aim, the Singapore Youth Olympic Games Organizing Committee (SYOGOC) has integrated a Culture and Education Programme (CEP) that will allow athletes to embrace, adapt and live by the Olympic values of Excellence, Friendship and Respect.

The highlight of this programme is Friends@YOG, since forging friendships is the best way to learn about other countries' culture and develop respect for cultural diversity.

This will see Singapore schools paired up with each of the 205 National Olympic Council home countries under a twinning programme under Friends@YOG endorsed by the International Olympic Committee.

Since the programme began in December 2008, the pairing has seen 229 local schools matched up more than half of the 204 participation nations, with some schools wasting no time in introducing Singapore culture to new friends.

At Evergreen Secondary School, students had their Mongolian counterparts join them in a Home Economics lesson.

Learning how to prepare a Malay dessert – Kueh Dada – was only part of the fun.

"The dessert was very sweet. It was soft and had a nice coconut taste," said 17-year-old Manlai Chinbayar after taking a bite of his kitchen creation.

He was among some 10 Mongolian students who dropped by the school during their four-day visit to Singapore where they also put up a cultural performance.

As for 21 students at Singapore's Jurong Junior College, they got to experience life in Moscow when they travelled to the Russian capital to be part of their twinned school, the Secondary School of Humanitarian University.

With most Singapore students more focused on their books, the ten-day trip which included visits to schools and places of historic significance, proved a socio-cultural eye-opener for the students such as Tee Yang.

"Russians marry at a very young age. Most of the people we interact with are aged about 19 to 22 and they are already engaged or married."

The Jurong Junior College students also managed to introduce a few aspects of Singapore local culture to their host.

Student Alan Chee Wei Feng said, "The fact that we brought our traditional games, and costumes and food over to Russia for them to try out, it really got them to understand what Singapore culture is really like."

The Friends@YOG programme even allowed 50 students from the Primary, Independent and Barker Road branches of Anglo-Chinese School and Anglo-Chinese Junior College to meet up with Australia's two-time gold medal Olympic champion Michael Klim.

With swimming a key sport in ACS, being twinned with Australia and getting tips to refine techniques in the pool was priceless for the 50 students who met the bold, bald swimmer.

"I'm glad I could come here to learn from Michael Klim. He's really helped me to improve my strokes," said 13-year-old swimmer Gabriel Yao of Anglo-Chinese School (Independent).

17-year-old Lennard Yong who will put down his meeting as an unforgettable experience added, "Michael Klim is such a well-known swimmer, it's been great to be able to see him, learn from him and talk to him."

Despite countless medals to his name, Klim can't help but agree that sporting events such as the Youth Olympics offer participants a more valuable prize of friendship and understanding, and endorses the Culture and Education Programme.

"It's [The Olympic Games] more than just winning medals. It's the friendships that you make over the years that you'll remember for the rest of your life," said the Australian who made his first Olympic splash in Atlanta before re-writing records at the Sydney Olympics.

"It's a great initiative to share with the younger generation. They can learn more about the whole Olympic Movement; how to deal with being in a new environment and sharing a message with people from different countries," said the swimmer who retired in 2007.

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