In the Olympics, players carry the flags of their countries and wear them on their sleeves. They are the embodiment of their homeland. For Singaporeans, it takes a lot more than that.
When Feng Tianwei won Singapore’s first Olympic medal in 52 years, clinching the bronze medal in the women’s table tennis competition, a burst of pride fell over the city-state. But there was an undertone of resentment towards the 24-year old paddler. According to the Financial Times, Ms. Feng, who was also the flag bearer at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics, was born in mainland China and did not get her Singaporean citizenship until 2008. An online poll conducted by Yahoo Singapore indicated that 77% of respondents were “not proud” of Feng’s win because she was a “foreign import”.
Anti-foreign sentiment in Singapore escalated with the influx of millions of immigrants and blamed them for crowding public transport, rising housing costs, and competition in the labor market. Immigrants constitute 1.5 million of the 5.1 million population. Chinese immigrants are the largest ethnic group in the city-state and their numbers are growing.