Running the Digital Marathon

Come August, all eyes will be on the record-breaking feats of athletes gathered in Singapore for the inaugural Youth Olympic Games (YOG). Challenge gives you the bits and bytes of the upcoming Youth Olympic Games. - by Mike Lee

Behind the scenes, YOG staff in charge of technology and digital content have been running a digital marathon for two and a half years. As they near the finishing line, five of them took a breather to talk to Challenge about their once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Alvin Low


Senior Consultant, Internet & Digital Media Team
He manages the official website, microsites, Culture and Education Programme Management System and the Digital Concierge for Singapore 2010. He manages the contract and the project life cycle, and oversees the infrastructure and operational aspects of the systems.

Challenge: How does the Digital Concierge for Singapore 2010 build upon the original DC pilot that was completed in 2008?

Alvin Low: The Digital Concierge for Singapore 2010 was included as part of Singapore’s bid proposal to offer timely, relevant and personalized information and services for athletes and sport officials. We engaged content providers, government agencies, businesses and ICT solution providers to specially tailor the first such implementation for an Olympic Games.

C: In designing the Digital Concierge for Singapore 2010, what special considerations were made for the targeted users of youth athletes and team officials?

AL: They speak a wide range of languages, so we have tried as far as possible to make navigation more intuitive with icons. The user guide is also published in six languages. As the athletes are between 14 and 18 years old, we have incorporated digital media content and mobile social network features too, so that they can easily post status updates or upload photos to their WhyOhGee! Community pages or other social network platforms.

Lim Bee Kwan


Director, Technology
She heads the team over seeing the planning, delivery and operations of all technology systems for YOG.

Challenge: Besides coordinating within the organising committee, there’s also the collaboration with agencies like IDA and LTA, and private companies. How does your team keep on top of everything?

Lim Bee Kwan: This project timeline is immovable and we began with the end in mind. Rather than rush into the project, we put in a lot of effort to plan and establish the strategies for procurement, development, testing, implementation, and operations.

We put in the right governance structure, and even planned how the organisation structure of the division would evolve as we move towards Games-time.

Therefore, we were able to be precise in our execution and meet the tight delivery timelines.

C: What has your team learned thus far?

LBK: The Technology function is complex and there are many moving pieces. It is important for the entire team to be clear of the division’s key parameters and principles so that even if there are changes, everyone knows how to adjust. It is a challenge to keep 85 busy people abreast of the key developments and decisions taken, but I think we have managed to find the right balance.

Engaging the Young

The YOG New Media team is reaching out to a wider (even global) audience by talking to youths in an interactive lingo they are familiar with.

Julian Lim


Head, New Media
He oversees the design, delivery and content for the various public-facing new media initiatives of the YOG.

Challenge: What is your one minute pitch for the WhyOhGee web portal?


Julian Lim: “Why ” is about asking questions, like “Why do I need to eat my vegetables?” “Oh” is about discovering the answer: “Oh! I didn’t know that!” Gee is about reflection: “Gee… that actually makes sense.” So in that combination, which coincidentally sounds like the acronym YOG, we have encapsulated the spirit of learning and self-discovery.

C: The WhyOhGee microsite looks absolutely funky. How did it come about?

JL: It’s the brainchild of 80-plus youths who came together over two evenings and gave us ideas on what they wanted to see and do on a website.

We also worked closely with a design team to make sure we communicated what we wanted users to feel when they visit the site.

After that, it’s constant tweaking to make things work better.

C: There’s also the YOG presence on Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, Facebook, and a blog. Does your team rest at all?

JL: Nope! But we do try to have fun while working. Some of us even took Lyo and Merly (the YOG mascots) up north on a road trip. Have you ever seen a toll booth attendant posing with a plush toy?

Victor Tan


Manager, New Media
He helped create the Singapore 2010 Odyssey, the first 3D virtual world based on an Olympic event. He also manages the social media initiatives and projects under the New Media team’s care.

Challenge: What was your team’s brief for the Singapore 2010 Odyssey?


Victor Tan: The virtual world has to be educational, fun, and continually engage users of all ages. It has to allow someone who cannot participate in the YOG in real life to do so virtually, and also let someone who has not been to Singapore preview the places and facilities

C: The Singapore 2010 Odyssey combines the present, and futuristic 3010. How was the future envisioned?

VT: We had discussions with our target demographic of upper primary school children. We asked them: What do you want? What are you looking for? Based on their responses, we got a better understanding of what they wanted to see. They even had a say in choosing the winning proposal for the project.

C: What were some of the challenges faced in the process of creating Singapore 2010 Odyssey?

VT: The biggest problems were that we had only two years and our virtual world, themed after the YOG, had no precedent. Thus we had a lot of unknown areas, like choosing the most appropriate platforms for the virtual world. We just had to deal with it. Besides balancing the educational and fun elements, we also had to accommodate the branding requirements set by IOC (International Olympic Committee).

I am the Editor for the youth microsite By hook or crook, I must produce interesting, fresh content every week or my boss Julian withholds food rations.

Amanda Zhang


Editor, New Media
More famously known as the eccentric Youth Guru who answers sports questions in her popular online videos, she manages a team of web reporters, web photojournalists, videographers and video editors to produce content for YOG.

Challenge: You wrestled a real Olympic champion for one of your videos. How was it?

Amanda Zhang: It was one of the toughest assignments I had. She threw me around like a doll, and pinned me down to the ground. I did suffer some bruises. But all in all, it was great fun.

C: How did the character of a weird Chinese guru master get created?

AZ: We wanted to attract youths to our website and videos are the way to go. The idea took after a popular video series called “Ask a Ninja”. The Youth Guru’s style was just something like a voice speaking in my head; when filming, I switch instantly into the role, as we shoot the videos in a short time frame, around one hour per episode.

C: How is working with your team?

AZ: It takes time and effort to bring out their potential and to train them.

It is definitely very rewarding because it keeps me young at heart.

Behind the Games

What is the Digital Concierge for Singapore 2010?
It is all the information you need for the Games – all in your palm. The 5,000 athletes and officials will each receive a Samsung OmniaLite (B7300) phone that contains the Digital Concierge for Singapore 2010 software. Specially customised for the Games, it gives relevant and personalised information like competition schedules and results. Users can also share content on popular social networks, access tourism information, and call the language hotlines directly. Plus, the phone is for keeps!

    Jul 6, 2010
  • link facebook
  • link twitter
  • link whatsapp
  • link email