Singapore, September 24, 2020: The Singapore National Olympic Council has paid tribute to long-serving sports leader and SNOC Vice President Dr Tan Eng Liang after he announced he is stepping down after 28 years. He leaves behind a list of contributions and achievements that few athletes and sports administrators can match.
A dominant figure within Singapore’s sporting fraternity, his stamp on the scene was indeed considerable. In a sporting career spanning almost seven decades, first as an athlete then sports administrator, he helped Singapore’s water polo team become one of Asia’s best in the 1950s and 60s, led national athletes to more major Games than any sports official, and laid the foundations for the transformation of sports in Singapore.
At SNOC, his time will best be remembered for spearheading Singapore’s push for an elusive Olympic medal, and working tirelessly to raise the country’s sporting standards.
“He’s been a tremendous servant to sport in Singapore. He passionately cares about our sports and athletes, and he is irreplaceable for what he brings to the table,” said SNOC President Tan Chuan-Jin.
As an athlete, Dr Tan was among the water polo greats who represented the country at the Olympics, Asian Games and SEA Games. To increase his selection chances for the 1956 Summer Olympics, the goalkeeper trained non-stop for a full year while juggling his studies.
With Dr Tan between the sticks, Singapore’s water polo team was a tour de force for two decades. It clinched two silvers at the 1958 and 1966 Asian Games and bagged two golds at the 1965 and 1967 Southeast Asian Peninsular Games that would see Singapore embark on a remarkable streak of 27 consecutive SEA Games golds.
The grit and determination he showed as a player would personify his time as a sports administrator. In 1975, he became chairman of the newly-formed Singapore Sports Council (SSC), which under his 16-year tenure saw the development of neighbourhood sports complexes. He was also the driving force behind the construction of the iconic Singapore Indoor Stadium.
“I’ve always admired his passion and total dedication,” said IOC Vice President Ng Ser Miang, who had succeeded Dr Tan at the SSC. “He’d drive his team very hard, but you can see that everyone under him is also very passionate and committed to the job. It was like a happy family. As chairman of the SSC, I learnt a lot from him.”
But most of his sports administrative years were dedicated to SNOC, where he became Vice President in 1992. He was most noted as chair of the Special Training Assistance Committee (STAC), the organisation’s sporting watchdog that ensured high standards across the National Sporting Associations (NSAs).
Mr Ng recalled how Dr Tan had fought tirelessly to secure an additional funding of S$300,000 from the SNOC for 14 National Sports Associations in the lead up to the 2015 SEA Games:
“He met the individual officials, heard their needs, studied their proposals, and watched how they prepared their athletes. When he was convinced they needed the extra help, he tried his best and pushed for the support.”
In all, Dr Tan served as chef de mission a record 12 times, leading Singapore athletes to two Olympics, two Commonwealth Games, two Asian Games, and six SEA Games.
Source: By Justin Kor, SNOC