From ‘Para-athletes voice support for ASEAN Para Games transport option’, 8 Oct 2015, article by Justin Ong and Wendy Wong, CNA.
As organisers of the ASEAN Para Games sought to assuage concerns that para-athletes competing in December’s Games in Singapore would be travelling to venues via MRT trains, local athletes have voiced both support and concern for the move.
Speaking to Channel NewsAsia on Thursday (Oct 8), para-swimmer Theresa Goh said that those competing in the Para Games have not yet been officially briefed on the transport arrangements, but said that the option to take the train was “not a bad idea”.
…The Singapore ASEAN Para Games Organising Committee (SAPGOC) said in a hastily called news conference on Thursday afternoon that the MRT is just one option available, and that shuttle buses will be used to ferry competitors to venues.
SAPGOC chairman Lim Teck Yin stressed that their first priority was the “well-being and care of the athletes”. He also said that the train arrangement was a means “to bring the ASEAN Para Games closer to the people” and that athletes would have the option to choose whichever mode of transport they are most comfortable with.
However, able-bodied national racewalker Edmund Sim said he was puzzled by initial reports suggesting the MRT would be the main transport arrangement for para-athletes. “In major Games, there are higher priorities such as managing competition stress to fret over. As much as possible, I am sure the athletes will prefer little fuss over logistical matters.”
As for organisers’ point that taking the MRT could promote “inclusivity”, Sim said there are “other ways to showcase social acceptance”. “Public transport to ferry (athletes) during a major event is a bad move. You must remember there will be spectators taking the same train or bus too.” The reputation of Singapore as host in the international arena is at stake as well, he added.
Able-bodied rower Nadzrie Hyckell, a SEA Games silver medallist, said the MRT could be a faster mode of transport, but questioned why it was not used for competitors during the SEA Games in June.
“Did they test this method? Like whether it is easier for the athletes?” he asked.
In a paper written by Jorain Ng from the Disabled People’s Association titled ‘Achieving Inclusion in Transport‘, numerous barriers of accessibility to those with special needs were identified. We have oblivious commuters hooked to their devices standing on tactile indicators, frequent breakdown of lifts and escalators (not to mention the trains themselves) and clueless MRT wardens. One Forum writer complained of able-bodied people using the disabled MRT toilets as dressing rooms. (Limit use of toilets for the disabled at MRT stations, 2 Sep 15, ST Forum).
Although Stadium station is only 3 stops away from where the Para athletes are staying, one has to wonder if our infrastructure and MRT staff are up to par when it comes to accommodating even a couple of blind commuters, not to mention entire contingents of people with various disabilities. Getting on board is one thing, being compromised by a train delay, by an ugly commuter, or someone using the disabled toilet for hanky-panky while the whole world is watching (including new Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan), is quite another.
As for ‘promoting inclusiveness’, what does chairman Lim Teck Yin expect of Singaporeans when they see Para athletes waiting for the train? Give them hugs of encouragement, assuming Singaporeans even KNOW about the Games? Will there be ‘priority lines’ for ASEAN Para teams just like how vehicles are expected to give way to SEA games buses? If not, are we telling the world that it’s OK to give able-bodied sportsmen and women traffic privileges but not those on wheelchairs and walking sticks?
If I were an athlete, disabled or otherwise’, I’d probably be more concerned about getting to my venue on time instead of mingling with the local population. These people are here to win medals, not your sympathy. They could have gotten SEA games marathon runners to jog directly to their venues and mingle with our local joggers, but noooo, they had to hide and ferry them around in air-con buses, with not even an open top deck for us locals to wave, cheer and toss bouquets of flowers at. I suppose those are reserved for PAP victory parades once every 5 years.
Alternatively, if cost was really the issue, the organising committee could have looked into chartering trains en masse, like what ACS did to bring their boys to a rugby final. And considering that people tend to behave better when they see imposing men in uniform with weapons, up the kiasu level and activate the SAF (for free, too) to make sure things go according to schedule.