Reuters: FACTBOX: Facts about Singapore, winner of Youth Olympics (Feb 21)

Thursday, February 21, 2008

(Reuters) - The International Olympic Committee on Thursday awarded the first Youth Olympics for 2010 to Singapore.

Singapore beat the only other contender, Moscow, for the Games, which will have around 3,200 athletes, aged 14-18, competing in 26 sports.

Here are facts about Singapore: * The island state lies at the southern tip of the Malaysian peninsula, just one degree north of the equator, and has a surface area of just 700 square kilometers (270 square miles) -- about eight times the size of Manhattan. The total population is 4.6 million, including foreigners. Among Singaporeans, about 77 percent are ethnic Chinese, 14 percent Malay and 8 percent Indian.

* A former British colony, Singapore became a republic in 1965, when it separated from Malaysia after a two-year union. The People's Action Party has had a stranglehold on parliament and the opposition has never had more than a few seats. Singapore is one of the world's few city-states, like Monaco and Vatican City.

* Singapore is the wealthiest nation in Asia ex-Japan, with a 2006 Gross Domestic Product of about $29,000 per capita, on par with G-7 member Italy. About 85 percent of its citizens own their own government-built apartment. The city is known for cleanliness, tropical greenery, and a low crime rate.

* Singapore's economy is driven by electronics manufacturing, financial services, and oil refining. The republic has the world's busiest port in terms of shipping tonnage and the world's largest container trans-shipment centre. In a bid to fight competition from low-cost China, Singapore is trying to build up new industries such as biotech and tourism.

* Singapore is famous for its tight social controls and restrictions on the sale of chewing gum. Homosexuality is illegal (but tolerated) and pornography is banned. Demonstrations are illegal, while public speaking and gatherings of more than four people require a permit. Reporters Without Borders' 2007 press freedom index ranked Singapore 141st out of 169 countries, after Azerbajian and Sudan, reflecting restrictions on the media and arts.

* Singapore has stiff penalties for drug use and a mandatory death penalty for drug traffickers. Singapore also practices caning for a variety of offences.

* The city-state has been trying to soften its image in recent years, with government ministers saying they want to create a "vibrant" city with more "buzz". It allowed some bars to stay open for 24 hours, permitted bar-top dancing, and held its first sex exhibition. In a bid to woo tourists and boost its image, Singapore legalized casino gambling in 2005 and is building two multi-billion-dollar casinos.

(Reporting by Singapore Newsroom)