Singapore and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Week

Singaporeans snap photos of the city's CBD skyline | Image Credit: The New York Times
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Shut out of the Olympic medal race while neighbouring countries fared better, and struggling to launch travel bubbles and a more open society amid the surging Delta variant, Singapore suffered another rare indignity when Changi Airport was ousted from the world’s top spot after nearly a decade spent there.

The 2020 (or 2021?) Olympics were not kind to Singapore. The city-state picked up a grand total of zero medals, while many regional countries did better, some having their best Olympics ever.

India took home a gold, two silvers, and four bronzes for a seven-medal total. Thailand also nabbed a gold medal, along with a bronze, for a total of two medals. Meanwhile, Indonesia earned five, including one gold and one silver, and the Philippines brought four medals home: one gold, two silvers, and a bronze.

Hong Kong had a good showing with six medals in all, including a gold, two silvers, and three bronzes. Taiwan had to have been pleased with its 12-medal showing – two golds, four silvers, and six bronzes – particularly in besting bitter rival China in badminton for the gold, a victory which caused deep resentment in China and fuelled a surge of nationalism in Taiwan.

Taiwan was jubilant in its gold medal win over China in men’s doubles badminton; Malaysia earned the bronze medal | Image Credit: Reuters

Though internationally, the big story in the men’s doubles badminton event was Taiwan’s victory over China, it was also here that Malaysia picked up its first medal, a bronze. Later, Malaysia added a silver medal (men’s cycling). The two medals were certainly well-received by the hometown crowd, but it was a slide from the four medals earned in the 2016 Games in Rio de Janeiro.

Singapore, unfortunately, also slipped this year from its 2016 efforts and failed to medal at all, after having brought home the gold from Rio.


Anyone who’s been to Singapore’s Changi Airport has surely been dazzled by the sheer breadth of things to see and do. Services, restaurants, shopping, and the S$1.7 billion addition of the incredible, mixed-use Jewel development in 2019 all combine to make Changi a destination unto itself.

But as they say, the only constant in life is change, and just as Singapore has poured money into its amazing airport, so too have other cities, and this year, the list got shaken up at the top for the first time in years.

Jewel at Changi Airport has proven to be a massively popular addition | Image Credit: CNN Asia

The latest line-up of the World’s Best Airports, as voted on by passengers and named by Skytrax, has Changi in the number three spot now. For most cities, a third-ranked airport would likely be a fairly auspicious bragging point, but for Singapore, whose wondrous airport has reigned over all others for nearly a decade, it’s got to sting.

The new champ is Hamad International Airport in Doha, home to Qatar Airlines, which, much like Singapore Airlines, is a top-tier world leader in the aviation industry. Doha’s ascendance coincides with a lot of partnership from its flagship airline, Qatar Airways. The Qatari government has also invested heavily in both its national carrier and its airport, with some clearly impressive results on both counts. Seems like good airlines and good airports go together pretty comfortably.

The Top 10 Airports for 2021:

  1. Hamad International Airport (HIA)
  2. Tokyo Haneda Airport (HND)
  3. Singapore Changi Airport (SIN)
  4. Incheon International Airport (ICN)
  5. Tokyo Narita Airport (NRT)
  6. Munich Airport (MUC)
  7. Zurich Airport (ZRH)
  8. London Heathrow Airport (LHR)
  9. Kansai International Airport (KIX)
  10. Hong Kong International Airport (HKG)
Doha’s Hamad International Airport | Image Credit: Archello


Like many other countries, Singapore is still not out of the woods when it comes to the pandemic. Surging Delta variant cases have postponed the frequently sidelined travel bubble with Hong Kong yet again, with discussions being pushed back until later this month.

With growing concern over increasing cases, Singapore also reimposed some of its phase two restrictions island-wide in late July.

However, in a bit of good news, owing to its high rate of vaccination, Singapore is easing some restrictions for fully vaccinated residents beginning August 10, a move that Malaysia is emulating, as well.

So, although Malaysians have taken to social media for some (hopefully) good-natured shots at their Singaporean rivals over the Olympics medal totals, it’s probably safe to say everyone on both sides of the Causeway is hoping for a sharp improvement in the Covid scene for the neighbouring countries in the coming weeks and months. The international traffic between Singapore and Malaysia was among the highest in the world prior to the closure of borders in early 2020, and many residents in both countries are eager to be able to move back and forth freely once again.

And though we haven’t been there in far too long, we suspect Changi Airport is still a pretty great place to spend a layover.

The title of this article is a play on words taken from the 1972 children’s book titled Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

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