MILTON, Ont. — Family, dignitaries and the community turned out en masse Friday for the official opening of Tiger Jeet Singh Public School, but in the end, it was all about the kids. The famed wrestler, developer/businessman and philanthropist isn’t just planning to have his name on the school, he wants to be a part of the students’ lives.
“I was so excited since this morning, that I would come meet all my children. I honestly believe that I never look at anybody different, it doesn’t matter what colour you are, it doesn’t matter what religion you are — we’re all children of God. I respect you all and I love you all, just like I love my own family,” Tiger Jeet Singh told the packed gymnasium for the noon-hour official opening of the school, which has hosted students since the beginning of September.
Singh (Jagit Singh Hans, but nobody calls him that) was there the first day the school opened, shaking hands and welcoming the children and teachers.
Today, it was the students’ turn to welcome Singh’s many family members, dignitaries from across Canada and as far afield as India and South Africa, media from Japan, and more. They opened doors for guests, gave proud tours of their new school, sang songs during the reception and waved their Canadian flags, cheering “T.J.S.” again and again outside for a special fly-by of a biplane.
It was an emotional day for the entire Singh family. Tiger Ali Singh, who was the only one of the three sons to follow his father into a wrestling career, was given the privilege of introducing his Dad to the crowd.
“My Dad has not only been my Dad, my Dad has been my best friend,” said Ali Singh, choking back tears. “My hero. And I feel so honoured sharing him with all you children today.” He commanded the students wear their association with Tiger Jeet Singh Public School” like a badge of honour.
According to Tiger Ali, his father’s fountain of youth is children; “seven grandchildren later, and now all of you are like an extension of our family.”
The announcement of the school’s naming actually took place in March 2010. Milton politicians were careful to play up Singh’s humanitarian side, while playfully acknowledging that he was a villain in Japan for much of his wrestling career. The grappling component of Singh’s career was represented on Friday by the presence of The Sensational, Intelligent Destroyer (Dick Beyer) and “No Class” Bobby Bass, as well as Toronto wrestler/trainer Rob Fuego.
The school’s principal, Rick Nodwell, was overwhelmed by the turnout, with overflow outside the gym.
“We knew this would be a grand occasion, and no one has disappointed,” Nodwell said before the festivities began. By the end of the day, a ceremonial ribbon had been cut, the school mascot named (The Tigers!), a tree planted, and cake delivered to every classroom.
The multiculturalism of Canada was evident throughout the day, from the sea of colours in the crowd to the mix of languages spoken and sung. Yet some of the most moving moments came when the attendees united for “O Canada” or listened to the Grade 2 and 3 students sing “We Are Canadians.“
“By combining communities, we are making this one of the most fantastic places to be,” said Milton School Trustee Donna Danielli.
Messages came from near and far to mark the occasion. General Secretary Ranjeet Singh came from Punjab, India. “Back home in India, we are all proud of Tiger,” he said.
Much more local was Milton Mayor Gord Krantz, up for reelection next week, who led the children in Tiger Jeet’s trademarked “Tiger, Number One!” saying.
British Columbia Member of Parliament Sukh Dhaliwal (Liberal, Newton-North Delta) flew in for the event. “He has become a Canadian icon,” Dhaliwal said of Tiger Jeet Singh. “He has never forgotten about his roots … as Canada has given him everything, he has given everything back.”
At the conclusion of the lengthy ceremony, Tiger Jeet Singh addressed his students directly, and ordered them to, “Stay in School, stay Tiger Fit, and say No to Drugs.”