Many have commented that they hope it has seeded the beginning of greater awareness in disability sports. Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu, commented,
Let us come together as one for Team Singapore in the forthcoming ASEAN Paragames. Through the Games, we hope that more Singaporeans of different abilities will realize their potential, participate in sports and lead active and healthy lives.1
- Grace Fu (Minister for Culture, Community and Youth)
She is also the Chairperson of the games steering committee and has been seen supporting the athletes at different venues throughout the 8th ASEAN Paragames.
Was there an increase in awareness through the Paragames?
Local mainstream media such as The Straits Times and TODAY newspapers had good coverage of the sports both online and on traditional print media. Features of the Games were broadcast on Channel News Asia, and Okto was the Official channel for the Games. Football star David Beckham also provided the publicity boost when he attended a football match between Singapore and Thailand. He then personally met up with Team Singapore’s football star, Khairul Anwar bin Kasmani. Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong posted encouraging messages on social media in relation to the 8th ASEAN Paragames.
Let us also not forget the athletes themselves who performed above and beyond what was expected of them. Many new stars emerged because of their unyielding drive to do their best. We saw Malaysian swimmer Yeo Yi Lin competing in the women’s 50M Freestyle S9 despite suffering dizziness, back stiffness and having double vision during the Games.2 Although she came in last, she was cheered on by the spectators for her unrelenting spirit that night and was also praised on social media for her courage to keep on going despite many setbacks in life.
The Singapore team exceeded expectations by hauling in a breakthrough record of 24 golds. Veteran swimmer Theresa Goh did not disappoint and Yip Pin Xiu set a new world record in the women’s 50m Backstroke S2 category on the final day of the swimming competition. In the finals of the Men’s table tennis individual event, Singapore’s Jason Chee fought tooth and nail against Thailand’s Natthawut Thinathe to stretch the match over five sets. Eyes were glued to the match, particularly in the last set with neither wanting to give in. Finally, the Thai won 14-12 in the last set. These are just examples of the many stories that displayed the true spirit of sports competition.
It was reported by The Straits Times that nearly
100,000 fans watched the events at the Paragames.
So yes, even though there were some people that I spoke to who were not really aware of the games, for the many who turned up, the volunteers, participants, spectators and families, the Paragames will be a memorable one. One that changed the minds of many on the abilities of those with disabilities.
Through My Eyes
Having attended some of the sporting events with my family, I found that the atmosphere was thoroughly amazing. I found myself drawn into the spirit of the game, where we cheered for the winner and those that pushed themselves beyond limits even when they were already far behind the leaders. I saw many volunteers staying on to cheer and encourage the athletes till the very last one has left.
The audience did their part too. They were excellent cheerleaders. Often, they cheered for the athlete who fought a great match regardless of the country of origin. That is the spirit of the Games.
So, if you asked me, if the Games was a success and did it change anything? Yes, I certainly believe so. It provided a great platform for me to talk about the different disabilities in a positive light. My daughter asked many questions such as “Can he swim without his legs?”, “Why can’t he walk?” and “He has only one leg”. It was an opportunity to show her what they could do even with one arm or leg.
This brings me to a full circle where watching the opening ceremony, I could not be prouder of those persons with disability dancing and performing beautifully on stage. That night, all I saw was a group of people coming together to create a beautiful opening piece and it was not about their disability but rather what they were able to do.
And for us who were fortunate enough to be part of the Games either as an athlete, a volunteer, a performer or a spectator, you would know that it is an event that we will be able to talk about with pride and awe in the years to come.
2 Source: The Straits Times, http://www.straitstimes.com/sport/asean-para-games-yeo-shrugs-off-pain-to-compete