The Youth Olympics are organized during the monsoon, Ramadan and the “month of the hungry ghosts”. The first two do not really seem to be a problem, it always rains in Singapore, although it has apparently rained a bit more than expected, leading to most of our pavilions in the village to be soaked in the mornings.
However, with a bit of sunshine and good spirit it dries up quickly and we can continue our demonstrations of first aid to the young athletes.
Similarly Ramadan does not seem too big a big issue as the Muslim athletes are allowed to “break fast” if they need to perform – and they most certainly do – as long as they fast later.
I am a bit more worried about “the month of the hungry ghosts”… In many places in Asia it is not a question of whether you believe in ghosts or not, rather what kind of ghosts might contact or even haunt you, depending on the time of year and your location. This month, the seventh in the lunar calendar, is apparently the one of the more sinister and hungry ones, and the Singapore Red Cross volunteers are worried about me staying in one of these big conference centres in the outskirts of town, where ghosts are very likely to roam.
So far I have not encountered any. Admitted, it takes something to wake me up after 10 hours standing in our hot, humid and hectic pavilion, although my neighbour has succeeded a few times. He returns every night around 3 am in high spirits, though he is not one himself, yet. Or at least I think so: he seems to be more thirsty than hungry.
I have, however, encountered some great spirit among the young athletes at these Olympics. We have been visited by a few gold medallists, who obviously are very pleased with their achievements, but we have also met numerous athletes, who answer “fine”, when asked them how they did in their event, usually swiftly adding “but it is a great experience to be here”.
You get evidence of this “experience” every minute and every hour spent the village, where young athletes from all over the world curiously try to learn more about other countries by visiting the many booths – these days from the Americas and the Pacific – and playing foosball and other games as well as taking photos with each other of course!
Naturally every athlete would want to win, but it is great to see some of the original Olympic spirit about the importance of participating returning to the sports. It is a far cry from the millionaires lying weeping on the grass after being knocked out of the World Cup. They could learn from the young athletes here, take it as an experience, it is after all just a game.
Our Flickr gallery from the Singapore Youth Olympic Games:
Editor’s note: Lasse Norgard is part of the IFRC’s Asia Pacific communication team, here reporting from Singapore