SINGAPORE : The question of whether Singapore’s Paralympians should be treated any differently from its Olympic athletes came up in Parliament on Tuesday.
The country’s disabled athletes won four medals – including a gold – at the Paralympics. However, their combined cash reward is not on par with the amount given out for just one silver medal at the Beijing Olympics.
Swimmer Yip Pin Xiu won Singapore’s first Paralympic gold medal on Monday. She will be awarded S$100,000, just one-tenth of what an able-bodied athlete can get for a gold medal.
Explaining the disparity, Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Community Development, Youth and Sports, Teo Ser Luck, said that one main difference was the scale of competition between the two Games.
He added that the rewards were given out by the private sector, and that the Paralympians were only recently given this award. His comments brought a swift retort.
Nominated MP Eunice Olsen said: “I was wondering if the government would also think of topping up the reward. Why doesn’t it apply, in terms of equality of recognition, for disabled athletes?”
Recognising there had been more of a focus on able-bodied athletes in the past, Mr Teo said that going forward, there has to be a longer term plan for Paralympians, although cash rewards would still be solicited from the private sector and community.
Turning to the 2010 Youth Olympic Games, Mr Teo is confident that Singapore would do well in sports like sailing, shooting, swimming, table tennis and badminton.
He said: “I believe we will not return empty handed. I believe that looking at how we have done (at) the Olympics and even the Paralympics, I think Singapore does have a system to produce promising young athletes (who) can be world beaters.
“And I truly have confidence in them that they will return with at least one medal – whatever is the colour.”
Still on sports, Minister for Information, Communication and The Arts Lee Boon Yang rejected the call for a free-to-air sports channel – as this had not been commercially viable previously.
However, he assured the House that key sporting events of national significance like the Youth Olympics Games would receive adequate free-to-air television coverage.
Singapore had a free-to-air sports channel – SportsCity – previously, but Dr Lee noted that the costs involved were prohibitive.
Dr Lee, who was responding to a call from MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC Penny Low, explained the government’s policy: “First, for key sporting events of national significance, the Media Development Authority ensures that consumers’ interests are served by requiring these events to be made available for free-to-air television, so that everyone can watch these programmes.
“These include the recent Olympic Games and South East Asian Games. I would like to take the opportunity to assure Ms Low that the 2010 Youth Olympics will be a sports event that will receive adequate free-to-air television coverage.
“Second, for other sporting events, the needs of the consumers are better met with commercially-viable, dedicated pay-TV channels so that consumers need only pay for what they want to watch and not be burdened with the high cost of a general free-to-air sports channel.” – CNA/ms
Channel News Asia