Despite the absence of an official agreement on sports, bilateral relations between Singapore and the People's Republic of China (PRC) in the field of sports have always been amicable in the past. It was only a year ago on 14 April 1999 that a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the All-China Sports Federation (ACSF) and Singapore Sports Council (SSC) was signed in Beijing, by the respective Chairman of each organisation, Mr Wu Shaozu and Mr Ng Ser Miang.
Since the signing of the MOU, sports relations between the two countries have soared to greater heights. The MOU had set the platform for the further development of bilateral relations. The regular exchange of information and programmes for the benefit of both countries would contribute to better understanding and greater friendship between the people of the two nations.
The main issues covered in the MOU relate to sports for the masses, competitive sports and sports science. It paved the way for closer co-operation and further enhancement in the areas of Sports Excellence, Sports For All and Sports Science. In this article, sports relations between Singapore and China are categorised into:
- study visits
- overseas training and competitions
- coaches and sparring assistants
- STUDY VISITS
- Delegations from Singapore
Before the signing of the MOU in 1999, there were numerous sports exchanges between China and Singapore. In May 1994, a delegation of 12 members, which comprised of officials from SSC and three NSAs, went to China for a study visit. The purpose of the visit was to study the systems and programmes for the development of elite athletes in China, particularly for table-tennis, badminton and track and field. During the 6-day visit, from 13 to 19 May 1994, the delegation met with key officials from the Commission of Physical Culture and Sports of China and the Chinese Olympic Committee. The delegation visited sports institutes, elite training centres, sports schools and major sports facilities. The visit had given the Singapore officials a greater insight into the infrastructure, programmes and requirements necessary for sports excellence. The study tour has also resulted in the establishment of better relations between the two countries.
In October 1996, Mr Abdullah Tarmugi, Minister for Community Development then (now Minister for Community Development and Sports) visited China where he toured two sports institutes in Beijing. The first was the China National Research Institute of Sports Science, which devotes its resources to sports science research and development on programmes to improve the health and fitness of the general population. The institute also undertakes extensive research on elite sports performance. The Minister also visited the Beijing Shichahai Sports school, one of China's well-known sports school for the development of athletes from a young age.
In July 1997, a 4-member delegation led by COL (RET) Kwan Yue Yeong, Executive Director of SSC visited Beijing and Shanghai to study its Sports For All programme. Of particular interest to the group was how the general population in China, especially senior citizens and housewives, are encouraged to exercise regularly through fitness activities such as rhythmic taiji, qigong and mulan quan for women. During the study visit, the delegates met with senior officials from the Commission for Physical Culture and Sports of the People's Republic of China and All-China Sports Federation to exchange views and new ideas on improving Singapore's Sports for Life programme.
In conjunction with the signing of the MOU in April 1999, a study visit to Tianjin, Nanjing and Suzhou by a 6-member delegation was led by Mr John Koh, Deputy Executive Director, SSC. The delegation visited public parks in Tianjin and Nanjing to observe the spontaneous mass participation of physical fitness activities by the Chinese in the morning. The delegation also toured the Tianjin Sports Complex, Tianjin Institute of Physical Education, National Institute of Sports Science and Sports Museum in Beijing, Chinese Wushu Federation, Nanjing Institute of Physical Education, Wu Tai Shan Sports Complex in Nanjing, the Suzhou Industrial Park, sports schools as well as various public gymnasiums, athletic training centres, community sports and recreation centres.
The second official study visit after the signing of the MOU was undertaken in May 2000. The 8-member delegation led by Mr Ong Lye Huat, Council Member of the SSC, visited Beijing, Hangzhou and Shanghai. They met and exchanged views with officials from various sports organisations on issues related to Sports for All and Sports Excellence. The delegation visited sports institutes and facilities, observed sports for all activities in the three cities, including the renowned Beijing University of Physical Education, Shanghai Technical Sports Institute and the Shanghai Sports Centre.
- Delegations from China
Ongoing study visits to Singapore by our Chinese counterparts were undertaken since the establishment of diplomatic relations between Singapore and China. In December 1993, the PRC Guangdong Basketball Team and its officials visited sports facilities in Singapore. Ever since, study visits to Singapore have increased in frequency.
In March 1994, an ACSF delegation led by Mr Wang Du visited SSC. They toured venues where senior citizen activities were held and had exchanges and discussions on the promotion of senior citizen activities and programmes.
Officials from the Beijing Physical Education University and the National Research Institute of Sports Sciences visited SSC in November 1994. The main purpose of their visit was to study the existing situation of physical education and sports science in Singapore, discuss exchanges and cooperation between the two countries in the relevant areas and also to discuss the possibility of facilitating staff attachments among the three sports organisations.
In April 1996, a delegation of 4 members from the China Olympic Committee and the Sports Press Commission paid a visit to Singapore. They met with representatives from the various media organisations in Singapore for a detailed exchange of experiences in managing and diversifying their business. They also met with officials from government agencies and private businesses who might be interested in investing in the sports facilities and industry in China.
Discussions on the promotion of sports for all which included dragon boat activities were held when Mr Liu Ji, Vice-Minister of China State Sports and Physical Culture Commission and President of the International Dragon Boat Federation arrived for a visit in June 1996. A study visit by the delegation from Qingdao City Government led by its deputy mayor took place in December of the same year. They met with SSC officials to exchange information on management of facilities.
In mid-1997, a delegation from the Sports Science and Physical Education Department of the ACSF held discussions on sports and student exchange programmes were also organised. In November 1997, Mr Zhu Qiong and Mr Wang Xiaoning of the ACSF came to Singapore for a brief visit, during which they visited SSC facilities and initiated discussions on the signing of the MOU.
In August 1998, a delegation of 8 members from the State Bureau of Sports of China visited Singapore. Several issues were discussed and these included sports management and administration, organisation of sports and fitness activities, promotion of sports in a free market environment, ie Singapore, the government's role in sports, the hierarchy and relationship among the various sports organisations in the sports delivery system, the structure and organisation of SSC and financial support for national associations, clubs and athletes at the national and constituency levels.
Shortly after in September 1998, a delegation led by Mr Wu Shaozu, Minister for the State Sports General Administration of China visited SSC. They were briefed on the role and functions of the Sports Council and visited SSC facilities including the regional sports and fitness centres. They also met with RADM (NS) Teo Chee Hean, Minister for Education, 2nd Minister for Defence and President of the Singapore National Olympic Council. The contents of the ACSF-SSC MOU were confirmed after the visit.
An 8-member delegation from the ACSF led by Mr Han Zhenduo, President of the Tianjin Sports Commission, made a study visit to Singapore from in November 1999. During the visit, the delegation toured various regional sports and fitness centres to observe the activities. They also visited other SSC sports facilities, viewed school and community sports programmes, participated in the Sports for Life activities and exchanged views with SSC and CSC officials.
OVERSEAS TRAINING AND COMPETITIONS
Training and taking part in competitions overseas are common occurrences for Singapore athletes. Various Singapore National Sports Associations (NSAs) have sent teams and athletes to China for such purposes. This would allow Singapore athletes to gain more experience and exposure so as to better prepare them for regional and international competitions. For instance, the Singapore table tennis teams have trained and competed in China on various occasions. In May 1995, the team took part in the 43rd World Table Tennis Championship held in Tainjin. Two years later in Jan 1997, the team trained in Shanghai for half a month. Then, in September 1999, the team participated in the China Open. This year, in May 2000, the team participated in the 1st Women's World Cup Table Tennis Championship and the China Grand Prix Table Tennis. Besides table tennis, many other sports such as water polo, dragon boat, rowing, swimming, gymnastics, and badminton have sent teams to China for the same purpose.
COACHES / SPARRING PARTNERS ASSISTANCE
China has abundant sports talents. In order to improve the standard of sports in Singapore, the NSAs have engaged sparring partners and coaches from China. These sports included track and field, shooting, gymnastics, waterpolo, hockey, badminton, table tennis, wushu, volleyball and fencing.
Besides Sports Excellence, the services of Chinese coaches have also been engaged for the SSC's Sports For Life programme. To date, eight Taiji and Qigong masters have been engaged with the assistance of the Chinese Wushu Federation and a Gymnastics coach under the Learn-to-Play scheme and to conduct clinics for the general public. Besides Learn-to-Play, Chinese massage experts have been engaged to provide a service at one of the regional fitness sports and fitness centres.