Singapore 2010: The Games that started it all

When people ask how I got involved with the Olympics, they’re always surprised by my answer:

I moved to Singapore on a whim.

That small, random action ended up changing my life in so many ways I never could have imagined.

In the summer of 2010, I moved to the tiny island without any jobs lined up — a situation that left me with a lot of free time. A friend of a friend was working at the first-ever Youth Olympic Games, and suggested I use that time to volunteer at the Games, which were taking place in August. I heard “Olympics” and I was in.

After a couple volunteer training sessions, I became a Media Operations Supervisor at the Main Media Center (MMC), located in the newly-opened Marina Bay Sands (in fact, it was so new that even though it was technically open, there was still a good deal of construction going on on the ground floor). I had a wonderful team of young Singaporean volunteers, all of whom were still in high school or just about to start university.

My team at the Opening Ceremony

Fireworks over the Floating Stage at Marina Bay

Over the course of three weeks, we worked a variation of hours: early morning shifts meant we were picked up by the taxi pool at 5:30 am; night shifts lasted till 2:30 am. My team was located in the MMC’s media workroom, where we manned the workroom helpdesk.

Something I heard about the London 2012 volunteers was that they were so enthusiastic, they would want to come in on their off days. And I can totally understand that feeling — even when you’re just volunteering, that environment is so unique it’s addictive, and you don’t want to leave. I would have worked every day, every shift, if my supervisors didn’t make me take some time off.

Even on those off days, I surrounded myself with the Youth Olympics. I managed to attend one event: the boys’ tennis semi-final between Colombia and Russia (Colombia won).

My team also took a special visit to the Athletes’ Village (you can’t enter the Village without proper accreditation, so we couldn’t just show up for a tour; we had to arrange a trip out there). We explored the exhibition stalls set up by other countries, talked to some pin collectors, and even met a couple athletes.

Funny enough, this athlete asked for a picture with me, not the other way around.

Singapore pulled off a pretty successful Games, especially considering it was the first ever Youth Olympics; afterwards, more cities became interested in hosting future YOGs. And while it wasn’t without its share of political backlash over budget (what Games aren’t?), I think these Games had — and will continue to have — a positive impact on youth, sport, and the host city itself — not to mention the youth volunteers it inspired, and the few whose lives have completely changed because of it.

Thanks to the work I put into at these Games, I have since gone to Shenzhen for the 2011 Universiade, Perth for the 2011 World Sailing Championships, and of course, most recently, London for the 2012 Olympic Games. Which proves that you can never go wrong by volunteering, and you should always say yes to new opportunities. You never know where they may lead.
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  1. I actually think the Merlions are kind of cute. Except they don’t have the “mer” part, do they? Have the youth olympic games happened since Singapore?

    You’re lucky in that you knew so early what you wanted to do! My problem with working my way up is that any opportunity I see, I say, “Oh that’s cool. I can do that.” And now my resume is ALL over the place. Need a craft beer expert who can build emissions calculators and then write about the process? Cool. I’m on it.

    • It was “Merly” and “Lyo” so they kind of had the “mer” in there. The first winter YOG took place in Innsbruck earlier this year, then the next one is in Nanjing in 2014.

      I totally know what you mean though, I followed a couple other interests as well — library staff? reality tv social media manager? Yeah I got you covered. And I still have this small lingering desire to work in aviation…

  2. Your posts always inspire me. You can bet that at least one person (me) will be taking your advice to volunteer wherever possible!

  3. I know this is quite an old post, but WOW. What a series of events! I would absolutely love an experience like this. I am all about all things Olympics. Thanks so much for sharing your story. Maybe I’ll figure out a way to help out in some way, shape, or form. If you have any tips, I’d love to hear ’em!


  1. […] The one upside to unemployment was that it gave me a lot of free time – time I used to volunteer at the Singapore Youth Olympic Games […]