Wednesday, 10 August 2016

National Day Parade 2016

Singapore celebrates 51 years of independence at NDP 2016

Looking to a brighter future, together
Singapore's 51st birthday bash sends out a signal of inclusiveness as parade returns to Kallang
By Yeo Sam Jo, The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2016

Singaporeans have long marked Aug 9 by singing National Day songs with one voice. At this year's parade, they went one step further by hand-signing the lyrics together.

Last night's parade - the first in Kallang in a decade - was symbolic in signalling the nation Singapore aspires to be: where everyone, including those with disabilities and the disadvantaged, is embraced.

Some 150 participants with special needs led the 55,000 spectators at the National Stadium in signing along to the classic songs Home and Count On Me, Singapore.

The signers, from seven voluntary welfare organisations, had special needs ranging from visual and hearing impairments to physical and intellectual disabilities. The crowd gestured in unison, a poignant call for Singaporeans to be more caring and inclusive as a society.

Yesterday's celebration of 51 years of independence was also the first at the National Stadium after the former stadium was torn down 10 years ago. The audience did not miss a beat in celebrating this return with ripples of red and white, leaping to their feet and roaring as the Kallang Wave swept through the very arena where it was born.

This year's venue, with its closed domed roof, meant favourites like the freefalling Red Lions and fighter jet displays had to be shelved. But there were new surprises.

Giant suspended props and aerialists dazzled the audience, who were awed by a gripping re-enactment of the Singapore Stone legend. Actors representing forefathers from various civilisations who sank roots here then twirled around in colourful ethnic costumes.

True to the theme, Building Our Singapore Of Tomorrow, the show cast its gaze to the future. Drones, flying dancers in LED suits, laser lights and giant floating buildings bathed in 3D projections dominated the stage, in a testament to the country's commitment to innovation.

At one point, a flying unicorn and a young boy, symbols of Singapore's dreams for the future, soared above the crowd.

"I was really impressed with all the 'floating' props. It was something different," said company director Jessica Ang, 45.

Singapore's 25 athletes competing at the Olympic Games also took part, sending their greetings via a video link from Rio de Janeiro.

The night ended with bursts of fireworks both inside the stadium and above the Kallang Basin.

Security was stepped up at the parade, amid a heightened threat environment in the region.

Engineer Terence Ng, 56, who was at the parade with his mother, wife and daughter, hopes the country will remain united should a disaster strike. His National Day wish: "May we stick together through the good and bad times."



'There's a hero in each and every one of us'
By Seow Bei Yi, The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2016

Actor Rizman Putra Ahmad Ali may have played Malay folk hero Badang, a man of super strength, at this year's National Day Parade, but he considers himself "shy and reserved" in real life.

"He is the go-to person when you're in trouble... a leader... I'm a normal person in real life," said the mild-mannered 38-year-old in an interview with The Straits Times before Aug 9.

But last night, Rizman transformed into Badang, whom he calls "our own superhero".

According to folklore, Badang was a village fisherman who defeated a water ghost. In return for its freedom, the ghost promised to grant Badang any wish.

Badang wished to become stronger than any other man and the ghost agreed - on the condition that he had to eat whatever it threw up.The wish was granted.

He used his power to help his villagers and was later made a court warrior by the king of ancient Singapore. His fame spread far and wide. In a duel with a strong man from another kingdom, Badang lifted a giant boulder that had been sitting on a hill for centuries and flung it into the sea - it landed at the mouth of the Singapore River. A fragment of the rock, called the Singapore Stone, now sits in the National Museum.

Rizman, who brought Badang to life, is experienced in physical theatre - which emphasises the use of physical movement, as in dance or mime, for expression. The visual artist-turned-theatre practitioner also sings in a band and has taught drama and dance, as well as directed plays in the past 22 years.

"It's a dream come true," he said of playing Badang. A Peter Pan fan as a child, he said: "I've always wanted to fly when doing a performance. I think it's very surreal."

Overcoming his fear of falling, he soared to around 30m in the National Stadium yesterday, shattering a "giant boulder".

Rizman, who watched old Malay films about Badang as a child, hopes that this "unheard tale" will encourage more youth to dig deeper into local heritage and culture. "I think it's a very important tale but people have forgotten all about it. It will create conversation for two generations, perhaps," he said.

It certainly did for his family members, who were surprised and proud when he told them about his role in the NDP.

Rizman hopes to inspire his audience with the Singapore Stone story. He said: "It's about strength, resilience and courage. We need all of that as individuals - the times now are very testing."

He added: "I think there's Badang in each and every one of us... You have to be brave, be fearless, face the world on your own sometimes, face all the challenges."


'It's not scary at all'
By Olivia Ho, The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2016

Minejima-Lee Kai is only seven, but he was already stealing hearts at the National Day Parade (NDP) as he rode a glittering rainbow unicorn through the air.

Oohs and aahs sounded throughout the darkened stadium during the parade's third act, as the unicorn, suspended from the stadium roof and twinkling with LED lights, galloped skywards in slow motion.

Kai, clad in a star-spangled onesie with an aviator's cap, rode the aluminium beast in a harness with nary a trace of nerves.

Even though the unicorn rose to a height of 30m - about nine storeys - he remained undaunted, sometimes even taking one hand off the reins to wave to the crowd.

"It's not scary at all," he told The Straits Times. "It's really exciting."

Kai follows in the tradition of other NDP child stars, such as Natanya Tan, who was also seven when she co-sang the National Day theme song in 2012.

To prepare for his role, he spent 16 hours in flight training, and rode the unicorn more than 10 times.

The unicorn itself took three months to design, and another three months to construct. Weighing 175kg, it measured 2.7m in height and 3m in width.

It sparkled with 14,000 LED lights. "That's why I like my unicorn so much," said Kai, "because it lights up, which is very cool."

The Stamford American International School student has never been afraid of heights, and in fact has wanted to fly since he was four years old.

An avid young sportsman, he loves indoor skydiving. He also practises taekwondo, wushu and rock climbing.

Being part of the show left him so thrilled it was difficult to put him to bed afterwards, said his parents.

His mother Naomi Minejima, 40, who runs a children's concept store in Tanglin Mall, said she had no qualms about leaving their only child's safety in the hands of the NDP team. "I watched them at work, and they were very precise."

His father, writer and blogger Benjamin "Mr Miyagi" Lee, 47, admitted he was hesitant about the stunt at first, mostly because he himself is afraid of heights.

But this was soon eclipsed by the pride he felt every time Kai took to the air.

He said: "I'm just so happy, so very happy."


'Floating city caught the imagination of creative team'
The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2016

Singapore's skyline of the future took shape within the National Stadium yesterday, in the form of a "sky city" that hovered in the air.

In an other-worldly sequence, 15 clusters of buildings, including iconic landmarks such as the Changi control tower, the Esplanade and Gardens by the Bay, floated up above the stage as performers in glimmering outfits glided across on electric personal mobility devices, bathing the scene in a luminescent blue.

The song Rise, composed and sung by local songwriter Don Richmond, gave the scene an ethereal atmosphere, with pulsing opening beats that segued into warm, soothing vocals.

Mr Kenny Wong, 49, the show's technical director, said the segment was inspired by discussions after the SG50 celebrations last year.

"There were loads of speculations about the future city, and what Singapore will be like. One of them was a floating city, which caught the imagination of the creative team," he said.

The team had to work within the confines of the stadium, figuring out how a sky city could be attached to the roof, "which can hold only a certain amount of weight", he added. It took nine months to design the sky city, the most challenging and elaborate set of aerial props in the show.

Another two months were required to construct the props, which are made from lightweight aluminium and wrapped in fabric.

Each cluster of buildings weighed about 250kg to 340kg. They were loaded onto carts that needed to be pushed into position before the act.

The props were then attached to the aerial system, which had been rigged up to the stadium's domed roof to support their movement.

Full-time national serviceman Yap Te Rong, 20, one of the show management ground personnel, said that coordination was crucial.

As the movement of the hoists on the aerial system run on preset timings, they had to attach the aerial props in time lest the hoist lifted up into the air without a prop attached.

"You won't have another chance, and you will spoil the show," he said.

They also had to be mindful and keep clear of the trapdoors - three of them opened during this sequence for other building clusters to rise up.

But all the effort was worth it for Mr Yap when he saw the sky city come together amid the cheers of the crowd and the sparkling lights in the stadium.

"It's quite an amazing feeling. It's a fascinating, futuristic show."

Dazzling show of light - from stage and stands
The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2016

As the stadium went dark during a segment of the show, the spectator stands lit up with lights from 55,000 LED wristbands.

Dazzling light displays featured prominently in this year's parade, but much of the technology that electrified the show was not noticed by the audience.

For instance, some 20 infrared transmitters dotted the roof of the stadium, broadcasting signals that made spectators' LED wristbands flash and change colours in synchrony.

The light-up extended past the parade - organisers activated the wristbands' "impact mode" after last night's show so that they would continue to glow whenever they are shaken, until the batteries go flat.

In Act 4, spectators were treated to the visual spectacle of dancers clad in vests studded with hundreds of LEDs.

Each dancer had a unique "address" controlled by a wireless system, which was programmed to create visual patterns on stage by assigning different colours to different dancers.

Another 14,000 LEDs were used on the show-stealing unicorn - 3m long and almost as tall - floating dreamily around the stadium interior.

There were also radio-controlled drones twinkling with mysterious LEDs levitating magically in midair, undulating in a sine wave to the beat of the music.

Yet LEDs were only part of the story, with more powerful technology used to project animated images on the Sky City and other giant props.

An army of cameras tracked the precise three-dimensional positions of the props and fed the data into powerful computers, which computed the coordinates and re-projected the 3D images in real time to follow the props accurately as they swayed and rotated.

The room where all of this was orchestrated was nestled behind panoramic windows on the upper levels of the stadium.

Here, scores of engineers and designers closely monitored rows of computer screens and the stage itself, ensuring that NDP 2016 would be a night to remember.

A place for all in Singapore
The Straits Times, 10 Aug 2016

No one knows what kind of society Singapore will be in 2065 on its 100th birthday, but it should have a place for the likes of Bryan Cheong.

This year's National Day Parade featured the 10-year-old in a prominent role in a live skit as one of the four grandchildren of Grandpa.

Unlike the other three, Bryan uses a wheelchair because he has cerebral palsy. He also has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. When asked about his dreams, he said: "I want a special playground for kids in wheelchairs."

This segment underlined how this year's parade aimed to highlight the message of inclusivity.

For the first time, 150 special needs participants led the 55,000-strong crowd in song-signing to two popular tunes.

They came from seven voluntary welfare organisations spanning a wide spectrum of special needs, including hearing and visual disabilities and physical and intellectual disabilities.

In the "song-signing" segment, the audience was invited to follow sign language cues to Home and Count On Me, Singapore.

It was meant to be a unifying gesture that reflects the kind of society the country wants for the future - one where everyone matters and no one is left out, said the parade's executive committee.

Throughout the show, the theme of including people with disabilities in society came across strongly.

A film that envisioned what it will be like for a family living in "Sky City" - a futuristic city that embraces modernity and technology - was screened. Central to that story of Singapore's future was how children in the family befriended a child with special needs.

They took the child to a special museum where language was not a barrier and where paintings by special needs people were exhibited.

The paintings were actual artworks by special needs beneficiaries from Touch Community Services, recreated in a larger-than-life format through a performance by the Singapore Soka Association.

Mr Quek Swee Hai, 51, was one of the special needs participants who took part in the song-signing segment. He lost the use of the right side of his body after suffering a stroke in 2005.

Said Mr Quek: "At first, I did ask them if I could take part in the song-signing because I can use only my left hand. They gave the green light and I knew I had to make full use of what I can do."



NDP 2017 returns to Marina Bay floating platform
Site allows air, land and sea elements, and has become a favourite venue for some, says minister
By Audrey Tan, The Straits Times, 19 Aug 2016

The floating platform at Marina Bay will be awash in red and white next Aug 9, when it will once again play host to the nation's biggest party.

Although The Float@Marina Bay was built as a temporary site for the National Day Parade (NDP) while the new National Stadium was being built, it has over the years become a favourite of some Singaporeans, Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said yesterday.

It is possible that the parade will return to the stadium, this year's venue, in 2018.

In the meantime, however, the floating platform has made for a stunning stage, hosting Singapore's birthday bash seven times since 2007. The other two parades were at the Padang.

Dr Ng said: "It is the only place where you can have air, land and sea (elements)... I don't think there's any site in the world where we can have this."

He added: "We've decided to hold NDP2017 there, at the floating platform, because of all I've said but also for a very important reason: We should do it there while it is still available, because it was not meant to be a permanent site."

Speaking at the Sands Expo and Convention Centre in Marina Bay Sands, at a function to thank participants of this year's NDP, Dr Ng said he was unsure of the Urban Redevelopment Authority's (URA) plans for the area, but added: "While it is still there, while it is young - relatively young - we should do it."

Plans to build the floating platform as a temporary venue for the NDP until the new National Stadium was ready were announced by the Government in 2005.

The first parade on water was held in 2007 and, since then, the venue has hosted numerous other social and sporting events, including New Year countdowns and the Youth Olympic Games in 2010.

While an eye-catching venue with a great location, the floating platform may need some upgrading to be used for future events.

During NDP 2014, the last time the parade was held there, sources had said the float could probably be used for another five to seven years, with some refurbishments.

Dr Ng's announcement comes just over a week after Singapore held its 51st birthday bash at the National Stadium - marking a return to the venue after a decade-long refurbishment.

He said yesterday: "In 2018, Mindef (Ministry of Defence) and the Singapore Armed Forces would like to hold the NDP again at the stadium."

But he noted that, wherever the NDP is held, the goal remains the same - to celebrate together as one people, with one heart, on the nation's birthday.

While the 55,000-seat National Stadium allowed twice as many people - about 275,000 - to watch the rehearsals, previews and parade itself this year, many crowd favourites, such as the Red Lions skydivers and a mobile column of military equipment, had to be forgone because of safety and other venue restrictions.

Mr Humphrey Tan, 31, went to this year's NDP but prefers the floating platform with its unobstructed view of the sky. "This year's show was all right but I prefer to see tanks and fire engines," said the chemical engineer.

Holding the NDP there could be cheaper, too. This year's event attracted some controversy because of its hefty price tag of an estimated $39.4 million - about double the price of using the Marina Bay floating platform - mainly from the cost of renting the dome-shaped venue at the Sports Hub.

Cafe manager Pearlyn Yap, 28, who has attended and performed at events at both venues, said: "If cost is an issue, I don't see why the floating platform is a bad idea - the Red Lions' segment is a crowd favourite and a lot more people (other than those who get tickets) go to the bay area to picnic and enjoy the fireworks and sea elements of the parade."

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