The hubs very wisely bought tickets to the Opening Ceremony of SEA Games 2015, when sales first opened in January this year! At that time, I didn’t have much of an inkling of what it’d be like, but as the date drew near and tickets had been sold out for months, I realised how coveted these tickets were!
Friends who watched the preview said that was really spectacular, so I got really excited about being there on the actual day! Due to the road closures, we decided to heed the traffic advisories, and our little family made our way there (and back) on public transport. It was a bit tiring going home all the way on the MRT, but our little troopers made it without any meltdowns. *phew*
We milled around taking photos for a while (B decided that she wanted to take ‘spot me’ photos by hiding most of herself behind the standees), before joining the snaking queue to enter the Sports Hub. The line was long, but it was constantly moving, so it wasn’t too arduous a queue.
We were constantly wow-ed once the ceremony started. After getting seated, we realised that we were right next to a very vocal and enthusiastic contingent of supporters from Malaysia! They were really gracious (the lady sitting next to me even belted out our national anthem when it was played!), and cheered loudly throughout, understandably reserving their loudest cheers for the Malaysian athletes’ introduction.
It was truly a night that celebrated ASEAN. The world is dominated by so many political superpowers, and the little countries in our neck of the woods are easily glossed over. But that night, we were all stars, and Singapore gladly welcomed each contingent – from tiny Timor-Leste, to populous Indonesia and the Philippines. We were glad to put on a rousing show, and make it a night to celebrate being a part of the brotherhood of South-East Asia.
Much has been said in newspaper articles and the like of the various show segments. Beyond the pomp and pageantry, the flying ‘butterfly’ ballerinas (suspended 10 floors above our heads) and the impressive fireworks (deployed so liberally it seemed FOC that day), what stood out for me was the humble plastic LED medallion.
Given to each spectator, it lit up in a myriad of permutations and combinations, as remotely controlled from one source. It should not be a mystery, but I was just stumped as to how they could control exactly what colour sequence a medallion would light up in, based on the exact section a person sat in.
The bags were given out at random to those who could sit anywhere in a large section of a few hundred people, and yet it’s circuitry was sensitive enough for such precise manipulation. When we were seated, we could not make them light up at all. But via remote control, they were activated to flash the colours of the flags of each country that was being introduced, in tandem with the colours displayed on the ceiling. Then sections would blink in ripples of colour, forming a unique Kallang Light Wave. I guess the fact that I can be this impressed is clear evidence that I’m no triple-E engineer!
The moments that stood out for me included the fitting tribute to LKY, and the spontaneous cheers of “Fandi! Fandi!” that erupted when he (and his very tall son Irfan) took hold of the torch. There are few things that unite a nation as much as its sporting heroes.
The kids got really restless towards the end, so we made a quick getaway as the final fireworks blasted away.
Swim finals at the Aquatic Centre
The next evening, our extended family made our way to watch one installation of the swim finals. Although it housed a smaller crowd, the atmosphere at the Aquatic Centre was similarly upbeat.
We streamed in with the rest of the crowd once the gates opened at 6pm, an hour before the first event was to start. It was our first time at the Aquatic Centre, and it was an impressive sports venue indeed. We learnt that the Olympic-sized swimming pool was 3 metres deep, and deliberately so to ensure that there’d be no undercurrents working against the athletes as they competed.
The catchy music got the girls singing along too, at some points, and the WWF (World Wrestling Federation)-style introduction of the swim athletes made us chuckle. We cheered, we screamed, we waved our flags like there was no tomorrow.
So it was particularly gratifying when Quah Zheng Wen credited the crowd with his win, saying that he could hear us roar when he turned for the last 50 metres, and how that really spurred him on. All that tireless training, all that sacrifice of pre-dawn swims, and he had the grace to credit the crowd? Wow. What incredible humility.
Beyond the two spectacular Golds that were won that evening, the hard fought-Bronze by Quah Jing Wen and other medals that the Republic chalked up, it was a meaningful evening because we could cheer for our country as a family.
And this is what nation building is about I suppose. #TrainingPatriots starts this way, because this is also what loving your country means.
[Icing on the cake – we heard that our church friend, 15 year old Ashlee Tan won Silver in the 3m synchronised diving event on 8 June! Big congrats to her!!]