Singapore has never won an Olympic gold. The last time this nation of four million people won an Olympic medal of any kind was in 1960 — a silver in weightlifting. So win or lose, Singapore’s face-off against China for the gold in women’s table tennis was a cause for celebration.


China’s Wang Nan plays against Singapore’s Feng Tianwei (Photo by AP)

Tonight’s match was historic enough for Singapore’s embassy in Beijing to rally Singaporeans to a party in its compound. A big screen television was set up in the embassy, and a buffet spread arranged for its normally food-crazy citizens.

Singapore’s prime minister, Lee Hsien Loong, was scheduled to deliver his State of the Union-type address tonight after the country marked its independence day on August 9. But in an unusual move, the state broadcaster decided to postpone the telecast of his English-language address to Monday night to avoid a programming-clash with tonight’s match. Singapore’s leaders weren’t the only officials watching: China’s president Hu Jintao, a table tennis enthusiast, was at the event.

To the amusement of many in Singapore, its three players are in fact Chinese emigres — and some Singaporean wags mischievously billed the match China vs. China The Singapore players moved to tonight’s finals after they defeated South Korea on Friday. But against the obviously-stronger Chinese team, tonight’s match ended in under two hours. The Chinese played and won two singles matches and one doubles match.

Disappointment? Not at the Singapore embassy’s party, which celebrated the end of the match by playing Queen’s “We Are the Champions.”

–Jason Leow