Back in 2008, the issue about disparity between the reward for a gold medal in the Olympics ($1,000,000) compared to the Paralympics ($100,000) was raised in Parliament by then-NMP Eunice Olsen. The Minister for Community Development, Youth and Sports at the time, Teo Ser Luck, defended the disparity by explaining that the Olympics is more competitive than the Paralympics.
That was a lousy defence. Just two months later, the gold medal Paralympics reward was doubled from $100,000 to $200,000.
In 2016, the disparity was brought up again after Paralympian Yip Pin Xiu and Olympian Joseph Schooling both won gold medals. Yip received $200,000 for each gold medal (she won two golds) while Schooling received $1,000,000 for one gold medal.
This time, the Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu, did not repeat Teo’s defence from 2008. She responded that the rewards are decided by non-governmental entities, namely the Singapore National Paralympics Council (SNPC) and the Singapore National Olympics Council (SNOC). She encouraged them to review their reward schemes but the reward for a Paralympics gold remains at $200,000.
Both Teo’s and Fu’s responses are problematic. If we were to reward athletes based on competitiveness, then every Olympic sport would need different rewards as not all sports are equally competitive. With this logic, there should not be a blanket $1,000,000 reward for any gold medal. Besides, how do they measure “competitiveness”? The Paralympics is definitely no less competitive than the Olympics.
Fu’s argument in 2016 implies that there is nothing the government can do since the organisations deciding the reward schemes are non-governmental entities. But this is clearly arguing semantics. Obviously, the SNPC and the SNOC are closely linked to the government even if they are officially non-governmental entities. Just consider that the President of the SNOC is our Speaker of Parliament Tan Chuan-Jin!
In conclusion, Paralympians should receive the same rewards as Olympians. The government may think the same but it is not doing anything to take responsibility or effect change. These are Singaporean athletes we are talking about – they worked hard, overcame the odds and made our country proud. Surely the government can do more than “encourage”?