24 June 2010

The Singapore National Stadium [Demolished]

The ground, the walls are trembling. Even the dull looking lockers in the dressing room seem to be rattling gently. Leaving the dressing room, the electrifying air seemed to intensify, lining up one after the after. An unavoidable glimpse of nearing flood-lit sea of red before you - the voices get louder and louder, the famed Kallang wave catches your eye as you prepare to run out, a wave of tingles wash over... national pride, patriotism, fire in your guts burn brighter.

"Every time when we trooped out into the National Stadium, you can get this Kallang Roar...the fans cheering us, it was full house....That kind of feeling, I think I cannot describe,"

- Quah Kim Song a.k.a "Mercurial Speed Demon"

Quah Kim Song with a diving header
[Image source: various Googled sources]

Fast forward. It's now the year 2010. With the current World Cup running in South Africa, it only deemed fit that we come up with something on a similar theme.

Firstly, a brief history of this beautiful structure which has seen Singapore's footballing infancy to the halcyon 70s, and now today.

Aerial view of the National Stadium

The area which the stadium is built on, is known as Kallang (Kallang Basin). The Kallang river area in pre-colonial times, were inhabitated by aboriginal biduanda orang kallang. They lived in swamps at the mouth of the Kallang River and fished from boats, rarely venturing out into open sea. Population was estimated to be around 500, when Raffles landed in Singapore.

Home to mainly industrial estates in the past, a slow conversion has been made to make it a residential area. Singapore's first airport was opened in 1937, Kallang Airport, ceased operations in mid 1950s. Then there was the Kallang Gasworks(article by Chris) which ceased operations in 1997 and demolished, leaving only gas holder no.3 structures conserved for heritage. Other present day landmarks include the Singapore Indoor Stadium, defunct Kallang theatres, Kallang Leisure park, Kallang netball centre, and the stand alone fast food outlets with carparks surrounding them (Stadium Boulevard). Indeed, Kallang has a rich history.

The Singapore National Stadium goes by other names as well, Kallang Stadium, Kallang National Stadium, National Stadium, Stadium Nasional Singapura, grand old dame, old lady. And perhaps even more.

After the second world war (late 40s), Singapore as a developing nation, crucially needed a respectable sports stadium for national and international events. The other existing stadium then was the Jalan Besar Stadium. Kallang Park was selected to be the site of the new National Stadium due to proximity of existing sports facilities such as the Singapore Badminton Hall and Happy World Stadium (basketball, wrestling).

Local engineers Mr Tan Beng Kiat and architect Mr Tan Choo Guan, having visited and researched on grand scaled stadiums in Moscow, Tokyo and England, with the government dedicating 60 hectares to build Singapore's first 55,000 capacity venue worth an approximately S$16.7 million.

All was not smooth in the construction, the National Stadium took seven years to complete. Extreme wet weather and the soft marine clay delayed the progress of the construction. Piling works were completed only after three years in 1969 and the actual construction took another four years.

An astounding amount of construction materials were used to create this grand sporting lady:

3,000 units of Hexagonal Concrete Piles
3 million pieces of brick
300,000 bags Cement
20,000 pieces Plywood
2,000 tons Timber Scaffolding
2,500 tons Steel

By the end of 1970, the stadium was three-quarters completed and was starting to take its definitive shape. Thirty-six steps, each 76 metres wide, formed an impressive entrance and a cauldron was built within the stadium to carry a flame that would burn on special events and on the opening of the National Stadium of Singapore. And on 19 July 1973, the new stadium was opened to the public for the first time.

Dr. Goh Keng Swee with the time capsule

Dr. Goh lays the time capsule into the Foundation Stone

Read from Second Shot, about the missing capsule

During the Malaysia Cup (former Malaya Cup) hey days, huge crowds could go up as high as 70,000 (estimated) packing tight into the cauldron. Many Singaporeans and foreigners a like could remember their experiences in the stadium - from our local NS boys (and police) doing sentry or urshering duties from time to time during big events, secondary school students and participants in the numerous National Day Parades, football fans cursing and cheering in the stands of their favourite teams.

To even the regular joe/jane who would be queueing in the snaking lines to buy tickets for music concerts with big names like David Bowie (1986), Stevie Wonder (1988), Michael Jackson (1993 & 1996), Mariah Carey (2000). The stadium too has been visited by the Pope (John Paul II, 1986), witnessed the MUIS Rally in 1989 and held silent memorial service for the Sept 11 victims in 2001.

The stadium played hosts to big sporting event where big name footballing clubs come visit - Arsenal, Liverpool, Manchester Uniter, Nottingham Forest, Celtic and Tottenham. Important games in Singapore's rugby history were also played here. As well as boxing, where Cassius Clay did a boxing demonstration. Local movies got in the act too, with Kallang Roar using the National Stadium as one of the prime locations for shoots. Those were the rolling good times.

Sadly all good things do come to an end, the National Stadium is slated to be demolished and be replaced by the Singapore Sports Hub, due 2014. The stadium was officially closed on 30 June 2007. However, due to delays of the new stadium planning, the old stadium has managed to remain standing till today. The last event that was held was May Day's concert in April 2010. Could we perhaps able to see some other big event being held before the stadium ends it's last stand?

Following an empty lorry through Gate 1, there behold, the grand old terrace stands before me, still as majestic. I admire with awe in it's shadow. No longer can the real Kallang wave be seen, no longer the real Kallang roar be heard.

The echoes i hear now are from the lorries bringing out freshly dug soil from the football field, rumbling along as i neared the once "burning cauldron" of the stadium feared by many visiting Malaysian state teams in the past (Malaysia Cup, then Malaya Cup).

I soaked in the grandeur as i walked along the corridor, seeing no other way up into the terrace apart from a flight of mobile metal stairs. Climbing the stairs gingerly, as the workers in the field ignored me. I will let my photos do the honours.

Sneaking a photo of myself in the reflection

An excavator digging the field peacefully

Grand stand area

Commemorative plaques of the stadium opening

Red seats

Decided to take a stroll around the terrace

One of the four grand floodlights towers, each 70 metres tall

Floodlights Trivia 1: 1 tower of 75 light bulbs is as bright as 100,000 cars' headlights
Floodlights Trivia 2: only one floodlight tower, next to the grandstand, has an operating lift.

Top levels above the grandstand area

One of the two electronic score boards in the stadium


A sense of grandeur

Some may have never seen what's behind the score board, like me

Fences segregate the different sections

Layers after layers of benches make a surreal scene

Weather was partially kind to me, half of the visible sky above the stadium were cloudy.

Slowly crumbling

The cauldron to hold the flames

Map for the media on the door

Press/media room

Nothing much to see up there, decided to go around the stadium one more time


More rules

After spending almost 2 hours walking around the terrace,
it's time to descend to the nitty gritty areas.

The Gents

Clocks and signs were seen at every turn and corner

More clocks

Ticketing counter with lots of rules

Classy touch on the gates

Leads to...an office.

Closed and moved

Seeing enough for the day, i decided to head out to explore the exterior of the stadium. Walking around alone taking photos is good enough for me, it would be nice if there would be another opportunity in future to take photos at a more leisurely pace. The only way out is by the same way in.

Take nothing but photos, leave nothing but footprints

The Stadium MRT station (subway/metro) is just next to the stadium itself!

It was overall an enjoyable experience to be able to see the Singapore National Stadium for one last time, before she goes for good. Some may ask, yes, i was alone and if i did encounter anything paranormal. Not really but i would say it's a still a no. I did hear some unidentifiable sounds coming from the room beneath one of the score boards, but common sense tells me not to be too curious.

I won't encourage anyone to try visit the insides if Gate isn't open. One could imagine the problems of getting trapped in there (i did passed by on another weekend to another event, the gate i previously entered by, was closed, probably for good). Trouble doesn't find you, till you find trouble. Bottomline is always keep your common sense with you, and always be observant and alert to your surroundings.

There's more photos but it would be an overdose, thus leaving them out (available for view in album). Perhaps in future, there may be an opportunity for a night shoot during some night events or if the sports council do organize some event like a photo competition. I wished only if they still have the stadium tour (which ended in 2007?), that would be great (for sure we will keep viewers updated if there's another stadium tour organized by the sports council!).

For now, we wish all our readers/viewers/supporters a happy World Cup season! :)

More photos from our album

The Singapore National Stadium has been levelled in September 2010, and no longer in existence. It's a sad fact, but in it's place plans are currently underway to build a bigger and modern sports hub.

Read about the demolition of the stadium
Our heritage advisor's blog entry - The Grand Old Lady takes a bow
Red Sports - Demolition of National Stadium officially begins
ConstructionWeekOnline - Singapore National Stadium demolition, in pictures

Information/history references
Singapore Pools history
Kallang Stadium on Wikipedia
Sports Museum
Kallang on Wikipedia
Kallang Roar on Wikipedia
Singapore National Football team on Wikipedia
Singapore Sports Fan blog
Pujangga Malam
Anwar Hadi
xtemujin's entry about the demolition

View photos taken by others
(Many more National Stadium photos can be found on the net and photography forums)

Acroamatic (has interesting interior photos of the flood light tower and cauldron)
Cat's Eye View
Swee Cheng

Article and photos copyright of Andrew (熊赴龍).

Forgotten places, secret spots, lost historical sites or having some interesting info to share? Is there a location/venue you want the One-North Explorers to feature?

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