'Sport has a way of uniting people': ESM Goh hopes for more sporting success stories

'Sport has a way of uniting people': ESM Goh hopes for more sporting success stories

Goh Chok Tong speaks at the Chiam See Tong Sports Fund gala dinner 2
The Chiam See Tong Sports Fund gala dinner on Aug 22, 2019 raised S$160,000 to help support athletes in need. (Photo: Kevin Kwang)

SINGAPORE: Singapore must “always dare to try” and achieve its sporting dreams, even if it does not succeed at everything, Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong said on Thursday (Aug 22). 

Mr Goh, who was speaking at the Chiam See Tong Sports Fund gala dinner, said that he has always believed in the power of sport and what it can do for a “young nation” like Singapore. 

He highlighted some examples of moments that have united the country, including the Malaysia Cup heyday in the 1970s, swimmer Ang Peng Siong bringing Toa Payoh Swimming Complex “to its feet” in 1993 and, more recently, when Joseph Schooling clinched the country’s first Olympic gold medal at Rio 2016.

Goh Chok Tong speaks at the Chiam See Tong Sports Fund gala dinner
Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong spoke at the Chiam See Tong Sports Fund gala dinner on Aug 22, 2019. (Photo: Kevin Kwang)

He said he believed the country should try to produce athletes who can compete in the global arena. 

He highlighted how, when he was prime minister, he had set goals such as qualifying for the World Cup by 2010, winning an Olympic gold in sailing by 2008 and qualifying for the Thomas Cup final in 2012. 

“While we did not succeed, we must always dare to try,” Mr Goh said. 

He added that while Singapore might not be at the very top today, it continues to produce globally competitive athletes in sports like swimming, sailing, table tennis, bowling and silat. 

He said that Senior Minister of State for Law and Health Edwin Tong, who is also vice-president at the Football Association of Singapore, was "foolish enough" to set the goal for Singapore to qualify for the World Cup in 2034.

"But that's the spirit ... Good luck to you, Edwin," Mr Goh said.

READ: Veteran politician Chiam See Tong sets up sports foundation for children

The long-time politician also paid tribute to Chiam See Tong, the man behind the fund.

Mr Goh also explained why he supports the fund: “I respect Mr Chiam as a well-meaning, decent and honest politician and Member of Parliament. He entered politics not for selfish reasons or because the People Action’s Party was not doing a good job.

“Despite our differences in views ... Chiam practised constructive politics. He helped set the tone for civil parliamentary debate in Singapore,” he said.

He also gave his best wishes and warmest regards to Mr Chiam, who was not present during the speech. 

However, Mr Chiam, who was in a wheelchair, made an appearance at the event about two hours after it started and was pushed in by his wife Lina. His arrival was greeted with surprise and huge applause from the crowd.


In a separate press release, the organiser of the gala dinner said it raised S$160,000 to help under-resourced athletes going forward. 

“This is what the power of collaboration looks like,” said Mr Jose Raymond, chairman of the organising committee for the gala dinner. 

“Our emphasis has to be plugging gaps in the arena of sports which will reduce or eradicate the instances and probability of inequality in sports.”

Since the fund was launched in March 2017, it has supported more than 30 athletes including sailor Olivia Chen, modern pentathlete Kok Kiat Xuan and national powerlifters Mathew and Matthias Yap, the release said. 

Editor's note: This article has been updated to reflect that Mr Chiam See Tong made an appearance two hours after the event started.

Source: CNA/hs