Celebrating the triumph of mind over body

DECEMBER 17 ― The recently-ended 8th Asean Para Games in Singapore was an incredible celebration of the human spirit and was an inspiration for all who were a part of it.

Singapore had also played host to the SEA Games earlier and so this was a very meaningful way to end the year it celebrated its 50th anniversary.

Everyone agrees that Singapore pulled out all the stops to make the Games the best ever in its history and it will be a very hard act for Malaysia to follow when we host both the SEA Games and Asean Para Games in 2017.

I am a frequent visitor to Singapore and this time I saw a side to its people I have never before witnessed. The young and the old amongst the volunteers really went beyond the call of duty, maintaining huge discipline despite very long hours and showing genuine care.

More importantly, for the first time, the physically disadvantaged were accommodated by all as equals, not curiosities or nuisances.

The venue for all 15 sports was the new Singapore Sports Hub in Kallang while the Games Village was nothing less than the Marina Bay Sands! In any multi-sports event, the level of organising is very high but the 8th Asean Para Games was certainly up there with the very best.

I was appointed the Chief Arbiter from the six ITOs (International Technical Officers) appointed to work alongside the many NTOs (National Technical Officers) from the Singapore Chess Federation.

It was fortunate that I was able to draw upon and be guided by the experience of old friends like TD (Technical Delegate) Made Suparka from Indonesia, previous games organiser Maung Maung Lwin from Myanmar and of course the incredibly experienced Panupand Vijjuprabha from Thailand.

While the new Singapore Chess Federation Council was not that experienced, their commitment and effort to make chess a success in the Games was second to none.

Officials tasked with administering the Games understand perfectly what it means for athletes to win medals as often there are significant financial rewards and the results might impact their participation next time around.

When the athletes are physically disadvantaged, this becomes even more poignant.

To preserve the integrity of the game and the competition itself, we (TD, ITOs and NTOs) of course followed the rules to the letter but tried to keep things relaxed while still ensuring fair play. We were as sympathetic and flexible as was humanly possible to accommodate the athletes in competition and I hope we succeeded.

*This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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