The dollars and sense of the YOG Minister defends govt decision to host Games, cost overrun By LEE U-WEN [SINGAPORE] Hosting last month’s Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Singapore was, in Vivian Balakrishnan’s own words, “not cheap”, given the gov- ernment forked out $387 million to organise the 12-day event. This was more than three times the initial pro- jection of $122 million, and the Community Develop- ment, Youth and Sports Minister admits the organis- ing committee severely un- derestimated the require- ments in a number of key areas such as technology and venue upgrading. “Our initial estimate was clearly inaccurate – we got it wrong. This was the first-ever YOG and, quite frankly, both the IOC (Inter- national Olympic Commit- tee) and ourselves were starting from scratch,” he said in Parliament yester- day as he took pains to justi- THE STRAITS TIMES fy the government’s deci- sion to bid for the event Showcase: The YOG closing ceremony. The Games did well to profile Singapore to an international audience, Dr Balakrishnan said yesterday. three years ago. More than 5,000 teen- which are at world-class The other option that er $46 million went to over- age athletes and officials standard with world-class timing and information sys- Not cheap crossed his mind was to “blindly cut the budget” seas firms with local subsid- iaries. Dr Balakrishnan from 205 countries were in Breaking down YOG’s tems,” he said in response and deliver a sub-standard urged them to “leverage on town for the inaugural their experience” and go on Games, which ended on to a question from non-con- projected $387m budget $m YOG, but this would not stituency MP Sylvia Lim, have been fair to the ath- to compete for other major Aug 26. Technology 97.0 international projects who wanted to know wheth- letes, the IOC or Singapore. As Dr Balakrishnan field- worldwide. er there was due diligence Upgrading of venues and equipment 76.0 “At the end of the day, you ed questions in the House when preparing the origi- want to host something Additional tourism re- during an intense, nal budget, which was Live broadcasts 45.5 that would be a source of ceipts are likely to have 50-minute debate on YOG, much lower than bidding ri- collective pride for all Singa- amounted to about $57 mil- he gave a blow-by-blow Logistics 44.0 lion, while Visa recently re- val Moscow had put on the poreans,” he said. breakdown of how the table. Security 18.0 Revenue-wise, ticket ported that spending on for- budget was spent, citing eign Visa-branded pay- Dr Balakrishnan reiterat- Operational costs 14.3 and merchandise sales are specific areas. ment cards in Singapore in- ed a point his ministry expected to have yielded Logistics, covering food made prior to YOG: that International torch relay 7.0 about $7 million – a “low fig- creased 38 per cent to $154 and logistics, cost $44 mil- million. many of the final specifica- Cultural and education programme 5.4 ure” because the organis- All in all, YOG did well to lion in total, while the bill tions and standards of each ers wanted to make the for technological invest- Sponsorship received (cash and in kind) 67.3 profile Singapore to an in- event – which had to be event accessible to all. Com- ternational audience, as ments and upgrades came pegged to World Youth Source: MCYS panies big and small con- more people will “sit up in at $97 million. Championship levels – tributed $60 million of spon- and take notice” of what The minister defended were determined only after sorship in kind, while oth- the country is capable of. this expenditure, saying the Singapore won the hosting tions: would Singapore still that the answer was ‘yes’, I ers such as Samsung, Atos, “Now everyone knows government “had a reason” rights in February 2008. have gone ahead with its had to proceed,” he said, Panasonic and DBS gave we are a beautiful, dynam- for underestimating this as- When it emerged that bid had it known it would adding that he had to con- $7.6 million in cash. ic, creative and global city pect. YOG would cost more than cost $387 million; and, af- vince the rest of the Cabinet About 70 per cent of the that they would want to vis- “We didn’t think, at that the government had ter doing so, has it received before getting the approval budget, or $260 million, it, live, work, play and in- point in time, that we were thought, Dr Balakrishnan value for money? for the additional funds was awarded in contracts vest in,” Dr Balakrishnan going to host a Games had to answer two ques- “Once I was convinced from the Finance Ministry. to local companies. Anoth- said.