Grass patches becoming bald because of football

From ‘Grass patch not a suitable place to play football’. 28 July 15, ST Forum

(Cheng Ming Kang): I am a resident in Redhill and, unlike Mr Simon Owen Khoo Kim San (“Let kids have a place to play football”; last Thursday), I am relieved that football is no longer being played on the grass patch downstairs.

Playing football at that green patch poses two problems for nearby residents. First, as the area is not meant for playing football, the grass patch has become bald in parts after many months and looks unsightly among the surrounding greenery.

Second, as the grass patch is not a proper area for football, there are no barriers to prevent the ball from hitting residents who are in the vicinity.

In fact, I have observed multiple occasions where there were near misses. There are proper places where football can be played safely for both the players and residents.

Sports Singapore has opened up football fields in schools for public use, and there are two schools in our neighbourhood.

We’re no longer living in kampung days when you can kick a ball around in any open space and not worry about your neighbours complaining. They may even join you in a round of spontaneous frivolity. The Fandi Ahmad tribute video titled ‘Ordinary’ is a throwback to the organic, dusty age of village soccer. The legends we know today did not fall in love with the the sport inside gated school football fields under the watchful eye of PE teachers; they challenged strangers in their backyard, they used slippers as goalposts, they didn’t have useless offside rules, and when they’re done they got a trouncing from their moms for messing up their shirts. Cue Fab commercial.

Today, with grassy patches becoming ever scarcer that you have to fight for space with picnicking foreign workers or dog-walkers with their bags of poo, most ‘street soccer’ as we know it has ended up on basketball courts. Which partly explains why Singapore sucks in both sports; you can’t play a full court match of either game without having to give way when the other party tries to score a basket, or a goal, on either end. These days, you’re more likely to see people playing cricket on a Sunday in an open patch by the MRT station. Sometimes there’s this lone guy sitting on a grass patch all by himself and no one wants to enter the field in case they interrupt his quest for nirvana.

Playing in void decks remains illegal, you can’t kick around in your own home without the neighbours complaining, and that open field you used to tumble about in has become barricaded for development of yet another carpark or fitness corner which ends up as an outdoor clothes rack. Lack of open spaces aside, our boys and girls are simply not interested in the ‘beautiful game’ anymore, which you can lay the blame square on parents for believing there’s ‘no future’ in the sport, and forcing you to go for tuition instead of roughing it out and getting dirty with your kakis. Or you could blame the internet for us being ranked below bloody Barbados in the FIFA standings.

When you do eventually find a spot for footie, you get residents like the writer above telling you off because your running about is marring the natural landscape, or they’re scared shitless about suffering concussions from careening balls. Such fears are not unfounded of course, though it’s just as likely that you’ll get felled by killer litter when you’re walking around your block,  knocked down by someone on a bicycle or electric scooter, or get your eye impaled by a smashed shuttlecock gone awry. I’m always wary of being hit in the face by someone’s flying shoe when I’m in the vicinity of a sepak takraw match.

Lawrence Wong would love to see kids playing soccer in random places, of course, despite all the ominous ‘State Land’ signs that tell us to stay the hell away. Unless some wealthy philanthropist with a passion for local soccer decides to open up his backyard to public, we’ll remain a space-starved nation with more people wearing wannabe club jerseys than those actually owning, or playing with an actual football.

SEA games carnival ping pong table copying artist’s work

From ‘Quirky ping pong table at SEA games carnival resembles work by Singaporean artist’, 6 June 2015 article by Mayo Martin, CNA.

A circular ping pong table at the South-east Asia Games Carnival for children at Sports Hub which bears a striking resemblance to a famous artwork by a Singaporean artist has prompted criticism online.

Cultural Medallion recipient Lee Wen has said he was unaware of it of the table at the Sports Hub. His own interactive artwork, titled Ping Pong Go-Round, has the same circular features, which allow for multiple players. Variations of it have been shown in different exhibitions and fairs such as his solo retrospective in 2012 and last year’s Art Basel Hong Kong. Most recently, it was part of an exhibition of Singapore artists at the ArtScience Museum.

…“I’m trying to find out who’s in charge and talk to them to ask them to stop exhibiting until they settle with me,” he added. “It’s good that they picked up the idea but it’s as if they didn’t think it has been done before. I think they should at least talk to me. I’m thinking of asking for some compensation in terms of artists rights because according to one lawyer I’ve talked to, it’s probably an infringement of copyright.

…The ping pong table in question, called 300° Table Tennis, carries the logo of Atos, a French technology firm appointed by the organising committee to manage the information technology for the Singapore games.

While it forms a “C” and Lee’s work is a complete circle, the latter said his artwork could easily be manipulated and rejigged so that users could enter the central space.

Lawyer George Huang was quoted by the ST (‘Horseshoe shaped ping pong table by SEA games organiser similar to artwork by artist Lee Wen, 5 June 2015′) as saying that Lee’s ping pong table is ‘very simple’ and it’s possible for anyone to come up with the same design independently. Well, everything is obvious on hindsight, George.

According to IPOS, ‘artistic works‘ may be protected under copyright law, but the ‘idea or concept’ of the sport of table tennis isn’t. So what happens when the worlds of art and sport collide and you have an exhibit that’s viewed as ‘artwork’ in a museum, but can also easily pass off as a fancy variation of a traditional game at a sports carnival? If I’m an artist and I put up a ‘performance’ involving a badminton racket with a chapteh instead of a shuttlecock, do I have a case if someone makes it an actual Olympic sport? What if I put people in ridiculous sumo suits and make them play touch rugby? Or captain’s ball. On trampolines?

Ping Pong Go Round isn’t JUST about bouncing balls to one another, of course. The artist himself uses the analogy of a ‘dialogue‘ between players on opposite sides, like a circular conference table. In other reviews, it’s described as a re-invention of the game in the context of ‘contemporary possibilities’. Meaning, instead of playing against one person you could easily switch to another, or play against both simultaneously. There’s not much room to manouevre if you’re in the inner hole with other players, though. So much for ‘broader dialogue’. I could add some crazy rules to the standard gameplay and make it a new sport, or work of art, if I want to. Like playing across 2 table-lengths, playing with two balls simultaneously or you’re only allowed to hit the ball with your batting arm behind and around your back.

Still, It’s a refreshing change from what we usually associate with ‘performance art’, which incidentally was once banned by the NAC in 1994 after someone snipped his pubic hair in public. Lee Wen himself is famous for his ‘Yellow Man’ work as an emphasis on his Chinese ethnicity, where he painted himself yellow from head to toe and described it as ‘wearing a full body mask’, a possible inspiration for the phenomenon known as ‘zentai’ today.

To the layman participating in this ‘interactive artwork’, it’s just crazy ping pong joined in a circle, and probably as fun and innovative as other insane sports mash-ups like roller-frisbee, hockey-golf, basket-polo or bubble-soccer. You’re not going to get inspirations on how to improve your next meeting with the bosses. But hey, ART man.

UPDATE (13 June 15): Sport Singapore acknowledged Lee’s work and has made a goodwill payment, hence resolving the issue amicably.

Sharon Au mocking Indian accent at SEA Games ceremony

From ‘SEA Games: Host Sharon Au apologises for insensitive remarks during opening ceremony’, 6 June 2015, article by Lee Min Kok, ST

Former MediaCorp actress Sharon Au has apologised for her attempt at mimicking an Indian accent during Friday night’s SEA Games opening ceremony pre-show at the National Stadium.

…Agence France-Presse (AFP) journalist Bhavan Jaipragas had accused Au of putting on a strong Indian accent to mock a young Indian girl sitting in the stands. He also said Au made fun of the girl’s name. Jaipragas detailed the controversial incident in a Facebook post on Friday evening, in which he called on Au and the organising committee to apologise.

“In an audience interaction segment before the start of the SEA Games opening ceremony at the National Stadium, emcee Sharon Au approached an Indian girl seated in the stands. The girl did not properly perform the act – saying aloud a line welcoming foreign contingents (others before her didn’t get it right too). Au, speaking into a mike and with the cameras trained on her, shockingly put on a strong Indian accent, and while shaking her head from right to left asked the girl: “What (Vat) happened? What happened?” he wrote.

Sharon Au is set to play Mrs Lee Kuan Yew in an upcoming musical, and here she is forced to apologise for putting on an Indian accent in front of an Indian kid, complete with unnecessary head movements. People have complained about thick Indian accents on radio and in plays, and anyone who takes Bollywood culture a step too far by going blackface at a Dinner and Dance are labelled downright racist. You also can’t buy a ‘Naan the Nay’ from Breadtalk without feeling that you’ve just ripped apart our social fabric.

Dick Lee didn’t have to say sorry when he did Indian impersonations in his song Mustapha. Maybe Jaipragas would have let it go if Au had put on a consistent Indian act throughout the entire opening ceremony, complete with sari, bhindi and song-and-dance too. I wonder if he has anything against the SEA games organisers calling a red-maned lion ‘Nila’.

The Indian accent is not the only one that you’ll need think twice before inserting in your comedy routine, even if you’re an ethnic Indian yourself. Michelle Chong’s domestic helper Leticia Bongnino was flamed too for her strong Pinoy accent, and the character has all but disappeared from the scene.  Yet,  chances are you may be spared from racism accusations if you do an exaggerated French accent or a PRC one. Someone I know gamely went full PRC during a dinner and dance skit, but no one threw duck wings at her or dunked her face in hotpot in disgust. People mimic bad American accents in front of Americans all the time, but no one calls them out for being ‘insensitive’ to American culture. If you mimic an American twang to be understood, you’re a poseur. If you mimic an Indian one, whether for practical purposes or comedy, you’re bloody racist.

As a public figure, Au should have known better, really. The kid may be too young to fully appreciate how she and her entire race were made fun of that day.  But if you ever need an example of epic grand stage levels of party-pooping, then look no further.

Singapore swimmers dropping the name ‘Red Lions’

From ‘MINDEF welcomes SSA’s decision to drop Red Lions name’, 18 March 2015, article in CNA

The Ministry of Defence said it welcomes the Singapore Swimming Association’s decision to not use the name ‘Red Lions’. This comes just days after Manpower Minister and Singapore National Olympic Council President Tan Chuan-Jin announced that Singapore’s aquatic athletes will be collectively known as “The Red Lions”, in a bid to provide a common identity for the sport.

The Red Lions tag was meant to unite the five disciplines – diving, swimming, synchronised swimming, waterpolo and open water swimming. However, the name is already used for the Singapore Armed Forces’ parachute team.

In response to media queries, Chief Commando Officer COL Simon Lim said: “We welcome Singapore Swimming Association’s move to drop the use of ‘Red Lions’. The SAF Red Lions and our national aquatic teams are sources of national pride for Singaporeans. We are supportive of our aquatic athletes and are cheering them on as they fly the Singapore flag high at the upcoming Southeast Asian Games.”

SAF came up with the ‘Red Lions’ in 1995, and when the SSA decided to adopt the tag for our swimming team, commandos cried foul. Granted, it’s awkward to name a swim team after a land mammal, likewise an elite group of flying commandos, but this ruckus over a name supposedly synonymous with the NDP parachuters smacks of poor, well, sportsmanship. These are our own countrymen fighting tooth and nail for national glory for goodness sake.

MINDEF itself has been accused of stealing other people’s ideas, namely a mobile medical station. ‘Lions’, in fact, has been used to identify sport teams way before the commandos decided to add a national colour to it and claim ownership. Here’s a rundown:

1) The Singapore Lions, polo (1920’s). I suppose the one with horses.

2) Our national soccer team (1970’s till now), with the developmental ‘Young Lions’ under their wing.

3) The Dunearn Lions, rugby (1970’s)

4) The ‘Police Lions‘, a squash team (1980)

5) Amazingly, a tennis squad called the Brylcreem Lions (1970s). I’m sure they gel very well as a team.

6) TaeKwanDo Lions(1980s), which in my opinion, is the most befitting of the king of the jungle, a sport which involves you striking and mauling your opponent. Sometimes you also roar.

Of course these days we have teams adopting the ‘Singapore Lions’ tag without our football team making a hissy fit about it, like this cheerleading squad for example. I could form a competitive chess team and call ourselves Singapore Lions without anyone accusing me of identity theft. Like the sky-jumpers, our footballers also deserve to be called ‘a group who have dedicated their lives and put themselves through HIGH RISKS to capture people’s imagination’. But that doesn’t necessarily grant you exclusivity to the name, especially one that pays tribute to a national symbol. 

If there’s any good out of this, it gives the SSA a chance to choose a far superior name, something closer to the aquatic nature of the sport. The ST reported that other choices included the Red Singas, Red Merlions or, strangely enough, Aquamen, the latter possibly getting you in trouble with DC comics. Or AWARE since there are women in the team.  How about the Red Tomans perhaps, unless MINDEF decides to shoot the SSA down again for choosing the same colour.

Spornosexuals showing off on Instagram

From ‘The rise of the spornosexual’, 1 March 2015, article by Gurveen Kaur, Sunday Life!

With his six-pack abs, bulging biceps and tanned, smooth skin, Mr Edwin Kon looks every bit the fitness model. The flight attendant, 29, has been snapping topless selfies ever since he began hitting the gym regularly seven years ago. Initially, the snaps served merely as a visual chart for him to track his physical development. Two years ago, however, he began posting them on Instagram.

“I’m proud of the way I look,” he says. “And there is nothing wrong with posting photos of myself in swimming trunks on social media.” Since then, he has amassed close to 37,000 followers with photos of his ripped physique – images that leave little to the imagination.

Nearly all of them are tagged: #spornosexual.

Coined last year by British journalist Mark Simpson (the same man who gave the world “metrosexual” in 1994), the term refers to a more hardcore, body- obsessed version of the noughties’ appearance- and fashion- conscious man.

Think football superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, pop star Justin Bieber and local actors Allan Wu and Zheng Geping.

If you’re wondering why there’s ‘porn’ in the term, ‘sporno’ is actually a portmanteau of ‘sport’ and ‘porn’, though I don’t see how that applies to Justin Bieber. Lest we forget, the singer used to look like a floppy muppet. I’m also not sure if gym counts as a sport at all. It’s like calling torture a hobby, or walking on broken glass tap dancing.

Bae Bae Bae ooooh

‘Porn’ is apt, in the sense of how these narcissists flood Instagram with their ripped torsos, or ‘torso-porn’. Like porn, sporno hunks objectify the male anatomy, reducing it to money shots of glistening abs, throbbing waxed pecs and bulbous biceps. The first thing you notice is their He-Man boobs, not their personality or their faces.  If you wear a very uncomfortable T-shirt over your sculpted body however, it sometimes looks like you’re hiding an alien trilobite underneath. Which explains why spornosexuals are often topless because the beast needs to breathe.

While ‘food porn’ gets your digestive juices flowing, ‘sporno’ makes you hate your flabby self and contemplate spending your money on ‘ab sculpting’ to fit in with the ideal of a ‘manly man’. It makes you look at your creepy fat uncle during CNY dinner and ask him: ‘Why can’t you do something about yourself and become more like Zheng Guoping, dammit!’ For some, it stimulates more juices than just salivation.

The idea of masculinity has been in flux ever since the first caveman began dragging his mate by her hair. Greek warriors and immortals like Adonis were fetishised and worshipped, similar to how our spornosexuals idolise the perfect body. Before Instagram, we already had buff, ripped men posing naked on canvas. Note the precision used in creating the shadow over his wondrous butt-crack. #greciosexual

In the 1950’s-60s, we aspired for the ‘Hollywood leading man’ look, the cool cat who didn’t think it was necessary to wear tight fitting shirts. All you needed were dreamy blue eyes, a sexy stare and wind-blown hair. Think classics like James Dean, Paul Newman or Robert Redford. Looking good was supposed to be EFFORTLESS, not spending your time pumping goddamn iron. Your face, that smooth pout, that intensity, did the talking, not your biceps. These men made the girls surrender to their irresistible indifference, hairy nipples or not. #dreamboatsexual

The 70’s had its ‘macho man’, and the Village People even made a song out of it.  These beefcakes were not afraid to show off their armpit hair, or sport porno moustaches. The 70’s man indulged in vices loud and proud, sexualising beer, cigarettes and illicit drugs. The spornosexual on the other hand, is often as hairless as a baby’s bottom, in more places than you can imagine. He champions a ‘healthy lifestyle’, owns more wrist monitors than I’ve had watches in my lifetime, and probably has never heard of disco. #hirsutesexual

Hey Girl

The 80’s was the era of the ‘action hero’, in the spirit of the machismo carried over from the decade before. Heartthrobs like Jean Claude Van Damme, Sly Stallone and Arnie were the real deal, and could smack today’s spornosexuals around with their pinkies while curling 10 kgs with the other hand. Conan the Barbarian FTW. Brawn mattered more than brain, and that was just fine.  They graced B-grade movie posters and the covers of Mills and Boons romance novels. Hair started disappearing from chests and faces and migrated in droves to the scalp. In the early 90’s it was Highlander ‘himbo’ chic. You could be a garbage man in overalls and still exude glorious Fabio levels of manliness. You are Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chilli Peppers running in slow motion. #barbariosexual

Me sword very big

Red Hot

Guys started to soften since. From lusty lumberjacks or stately warriors they became dandy princes on horses and pasty-faced vampires, and what used to be grease on their faces is now replaced by a more expensive form of emollient known as moisturiser. The new man was confident, well groomed, dapper and was ‘in touch’ with his feminine side. In short, they became richer but ‘gayer’. They’re not handy with power drills or axe to chop wood, but know exactly which button to unbutton to look absolutely ravishing. Cue the #metrosexual.

He’s a dish. Best served cold

But it didn’t stop there. The masculine identity hit its pinnacle with the UBERSEXUAL. George Clooney became the man of the decade. The ‘Sexiest men alive’ as voted by People Magazine became less rugged and grimy over time, from Mel Gibson and Nick Nolte (?!) to more recent winners like Adam Levine and Ryan Gosling who fit the ‘uber’ bill. The latest winner, however, is grog-guzzling Thor himself Chris Hemsworth, who embodies more of the throwback Conan the Barbarian archetype than the fitspo-addicted spornosexuals of today, guys who swing a mighty hammer like a woman twirling a hula hoop. There is hope.

An interesting trend is the evolution of James Bond, who has traditionally been a sleek, not too muscular ladykiller who epitomised the definition of ‘dashing’. Sean Connery was the classic ladies’ man, before he morphed into the more girly Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan. Today’s 007 comes in the unlikely hunky -doriness of Daniel Craig. Craig is roast beef to Brosnan’s turkey bacon. Or look at Superman. Then and now. All tight and buff but still afraid of Kryptonite. #supersexual

It’s a bicep, it’s a plane.

The rise of celebrity chefs led the way for the invasion of the GASTROSEXUALS. Men who like to imagine themselves conquering Hell’s Kitchen, who know exactly what’s the best spatula or egg timer to use when baking a souffle. Never have we seen the Y-chromosome subject to so much sexual selection over time. It’s more straightforward for the ‘ideal’ woman. They become fatter or skinnier, their hair and skirts get longer or shorter. One moment our girl-crush is Kate Moss, the next it’s Kim Kadashian. Sexy women are just ‘sexual’, without us having to compartmentalise them by their penchant for facial products or whether they post pole-dancing videos on Facebook.

Maybe it’s time to look beyond the physique and glamour and reflect on what society (by society I mean women) finds alluring in a man again. Wit, intelligence, a sparkle in the eye? A man who impresses not with his pectorals but his poetic sense of humour and charm, with an endearing beer-belly body type that suggests mirth and a devil-may-care attitude. Think anti-sporno characters like Jonah Hill, or Ricky Gervais. Comedians basically, with as much brain as belly, not so much brawn. #flabbosexuals

But on a serious note, maybe we need to see if such spornosexualising is even healthy to begin with. You may be fit as a fiddle, but fall prey to a gym addiction and obsess over your body-image. You may collapse into a nervous wreck every time someone makes a passing remark of your weight, or the size of your chest, or fall into depression if someone else got more ‘Likes’ than you did on Instagram. You decide to hit the gym past midnight because you feel guilty about having half a pineapple tart. You spend an hour touching up your pic just to get the right hue on your six-pack and aureolae before making it your icon on Whatsapp. People who nod off on your shoulder on the MRT get concussions because you’re built like a German tank.

That’s no longer ‘pride’ anymore, dude.  It’s body dysmorphic disorder.

Singapore is not a SIN city

From ‘Take the SIN out of Singapore’, 6 Oct 2014, ST Forum

(Andrew Choo Ming Sing): SEEING the word “SIN” emblazoned across the chests of our beaming Asian Games athletes (“Finally, a golden day for Singapore”; last Wednesday) evoked a feeling that was somewhat bittersweet. “SIN” is the International Olympic Committee code for Singapore and is used to represent our country in sporting events. “SIN” is also the International Air Traffic Association code for Changi Airport, the gateway to our country.

Sports and travel are two of the most visible platforms through which we project ourselves to the world. “SIN” is the word projected when we make a name for ourselves on these platforms. Sin cities of the world are well known, for better or for worse. Whenever Singapore is elevated into focus, the image must be one that is in keeping with our cultural and social mores.

Singapore is not a sin city. But, with the use of the code “SIN”, the eye will make the association, even if the heart and mind know otherwise. Is it in our national interest for “SIN” to be associated with Singapore?

We should consider adopting the less-used (but not lesser) code “SGP” instead of “SIN”. “SGP” is, after all, the United Nations’ country code for Singapore. Indeed, the Internet domain designation for Singapore is “.sg”. Furthermore, “SGP” corresponds to the syllables that make up the word “Sin-Ga-Pore”.

It looks better, sounds better and unifies all usage and application.

10641256_795346367155238_6059399294754186771_n

Team SIN

In 2010, the Today paper published a tongue-in-cheek feature titled I LOVE SIN, instead of the more frequently hashtagged, less embarrassing ‘ I LOVE SG’. Indeed, it’s the only code that stands out among the list of countries which participated in the Incheon games, but only if you’re suffering from excessive self-consciousness, or are more interested in scrutinising 3-letter codes instead of the number of medals that our beloved team has brought home. Incidentally, SIN ranked higher than both Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, countries that many people don’t know even exist, let alone realise are part of Asia.

One may argue about how ‘sinful’ Singapore really is. Our 2 IRs already give us something in common with the original ‘Sin City’ Las Vegas. In fact, a report in 2012 states that Singapore’s 2 IRs may have surpassed all 39 casinos in Vegas in takings, making it the global gambling ‘hub’ second only to Macau. The current courtroom news gripping the nation is about church founders embezzling donations to fund a celebrity pastor who exposes a gyrating torso in her music videos. There’s a seething undercurrent of vice online, in the backstreets, occasionally in the highest public offices, right up to the dirty LUSTY antics of a certain Speaker of Parliament. Although adultery site Ashley Madison is banned, it still has a reported 25,000 registered users from Singapore. If you want to argue based on biblical technicalities, we also aim to be among Asia’s top ‘sinners’ when it comes to our fetish for local cuisine (GLUTTONY). If rich, oily food were a sin, we would rank among the most enthusiastic purveyors of food porn.

To still insist that Singapore has to upkeep a squeaky-clean image, to the extent of amending a code used for so long in sporting events which hardly anyone ever notices unless someone mentions it, is like telling a prospective son-in-law to trim his moustache because you don’t want him to resemble a brutal genocidal dictator. It just makes the association more OBVIOUS. Otherwise, no one would even think of Hitler under any circumstance. It would have been a ironic case of ‘Hmm, now that you mentioned it…’, though I doubt anyone would avoid stepping into the country just because the boarding pass tells us that we could be disembarking right onto a land of pure, perverse, EVIL.

Besides, ask a linguist and he would probably disagree that we should even pronounce Singapore as SIN-GA-PORE, with the ‘hard G’. By syllabic emphasis alone, it should be ‘SAP’ instead. But between a word that implies ‘weakling/loser’ vs SIN, I’d much prefer the latter, even at the remotest possibility that the international community, who have many better things to do with their lives, might be scoffing and shaking their heads in utter disappointment at it.

ACS chartering 5 MRT trains for rugby match

From ‘SMRT acknowledged prior approval should have been sought: LTA’, 27 Aug 2014, article in Today online.

Transport operator SMRT has explained to the Land Transport Authority (LTA) why it let Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) charter five of its trains to transport students and staff to a rugby match yesterday (Aug 26) at the National Stadium. SMRT has also “acknowledged that prior approval should have been sought”, said an LTA spokesperson in a statement today.

“The operator is required to obtain LTA’s approval to run trains for non-public transport purposes because as regulator, LTA is responsible for ensuring that train services to the public are provided as scheduled, and that any additional trips in the network do not adversely affect such services,” the spokesperson added.

ACS(I) had chartered the trains to transport 3,000 of its students and staff to the Schools National C Division rugby final match, which was the first school final to be held at the new National Stadium at the Sports Hub. Yesterday, the LTA said it was looking into the appropriate action to take against SMRT after the public transport operator failed to seek the necessary approval from the authorities before letting the school charter its trains.

They've got a ticket to ride

They’ve got a ticket to ride

When asked about why they supported this private entourage, SMRT said that they believed in ‘supporting local education’ and ‘national initiatives’ without compromising core service delivery (Rugby: ACS(I) to charter five MRT trains…25 Aug, ST). This was a rugby championship match between rival schools, not a mass deployment of martyrs to the battlefront. It’s MRT playing host to a private event, where instead of your favourite restaurant or theatre being closed off for some company party, it’s 5 entire trains. I doubt LTA would have said NO anyway even if SMRT had asked for permission. The alternative would be 80 buses clogging up the roads and this is one premier school which is more than able to afford hiring a Zeppelin or cruise liner if they wanted to. Better to inconvenience some lowly train commuters than aggravate those car-drivers, eh?

Still, when you see ACS’s motto being flashed on the LED scroller in the image above, you can’t help wondering if SMRT the public transport provider is sidelining as a party organiser here. If a school like ACS could hire MRT trains to bring their students to a sports competition, what’s stopping a multimillion, Government-endorsed company from doing the same to bring their employers to a Dinner and Dance, or from office to Changi Airport for an overseas AGM? If I’m very influential, could I hire one train just to ferry people to my gala wedding in style, complete with buskers and champagne? After all, it’s cheap, eco-friendly and SMRT has given us the assurance that normal passenger service would be minimally affected. Imagine if traditional rivals like RI or Hwa Chong followed suit with their own mass events. Hwa Chong even wanted an MRT station named after them for God’s sake. In fact, managing director Lee Ling Wee went on to ENCOURAGE more schools located near the CCL to charter trains during off-peak hours because it seems that they could afford it. You know, just to dispel the notion of MRT chartering being the sole right of elite institutions. Maybe SMRT should have an online booking system too, and exclusive themed trains like ‘Summer Wedding’ or ‘Ruggers’ Fiesta’ which you can choose to upgrade to.

I think if the event had been a charity fundraiser or a Big Day out for pioneers or the handicapped, few would complain. But this was for a select group with no noble intentions outside of flying some school flags or chanting slogans for a sport that only gets screened live in dingy Irish bars. I for one would rather watch a Bonsai pruning competition than the Rugby World Cup final. ACS’s private joyride had no philanthropic, ‘educational’ value or ‘national’ objective worthy of inspiration or pride. So why does rugby warrant this special privilege? Vivian Balakrishnan could have skimmed his YOG budget had he thought of chartering for volunteers and participants back in 2011. If you accept the argument that this is ‘cost effective’ then anybody can justify using the MRT as their grandfather’s train to move thousands of people for other frivolous reasons. Does SMRT have any qualification criteria at all?

As for that LED marquee screen that otherwise no one ever gives a shit about, now there’s an idea for a wedding proposal, guys.

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