Singapore is an island nation located at the southern tip of the Malay Peninsula. It lies 137 kilometres (85 mi) north of the Equator, south of the Malaysian state of Johor and north of Indonesia's Riau Islands. At 704.0 km² (272 sq mi), it is one of the few remaining city-states in the world and the smallest country in Southeast Asia. Despite its small size, Singapore has a population of slightly over 5.6 million people, of which over half were born locally.
The British East India Company established a trading post on the island in 1819. The main settlement up to that point was a Malay fishing village at the mouth of the Singapore River. Several hundred indigenous Orang Laut people also lived around the coast, rivers and smaller islands. The British used Singapore as a strategic trading post along the spice route. It became one of the most important commercial and military centres of the British Empire. Winston Churchill called it "Britain's greatest defeat" when it was occupied by the Japanese during World War II. Singapore reverted to British rule in 1945. In 1963, it merged with Malaya, Sabah and Sarawak to form Malaysia. Less than two years later it split from the federation and became an independent republic on August 9, 1965. Singapore joined the United Nations on September 21 that same year.
Since independence, Singapore's standard of living has increased. A state-led industrialization drive, aided by foreign direct investment has created a modern economy based on electronics manufacturing, petrochemicals, tourism and financial services alongside the traditional entrepôt trade. Singapore is the 3rd wealthiest country in the world in terms of GDP per capita. The small nation has a foreign reserve of S$222 billion (US$147 billion).
Lyo and Merly were the official mascots of the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics that were held in Singapore. They represent several Olympic values and traits of Singapore. Lyo's name is the initials of "Lion of the Youth Olympics" (L.Y.O.), while Merly's name is a combination of mer, which means the sea, and the letters L and Y which stand for liveliness and youthfulness respectively. Designing the mascots took about six months, and the two mascots were officially introduced on 21 November 2009.
Before and during the Youth Olympics, Lyo and Merly appeared in school events, launches and roadshows. They also participated in pre-National Day Parade activities, were displayed at competition venues and were featured in Youth Olympics memorabilia. Male medal winners at the Games were presented with a Lyo plush toy during victory ceremonies, while the female winners received a Merly toy.