Team Singapore

Wong's journey from performer in 1993 to spectator

He will never forget the spine-tingling atmosphere at the old National Stadium in 1993.

Then a Secondary Four student, Albert Wong was performing with his school's military band in front of a 40,000-strong crowd for the opening ceremony of the 17th South-east Asia (SEA) Games - the last time Singapore hosted the biennial Games.

It was the largest audience he had ever performed in front of and, for Wong, there was one significant moment during the ceremony that will alaways be his highlight of the '93 Games.

"I remember the spectators throwing footballs onto the pitch - that was a bit crazy but fun, too," the ardent football fan, 36, told The New Paper yesterday at the new National Stadium, where he attended the opening ceremony for the 28th SEA Games.

"It's great to be back here for this edition of the SEA Games."

The stadium was a sea of red as thousands of fans paraded flags, football jerseys and shouted "Team Singapore" slogans to show their support for the nation's athletes, as they bid to surpass the previous best tally of 50 gold medals set in 1993.

As of yesterday, Singapore led the medal standings table with seven golds, four silvers and seven bronzes.

The shock exit of paddler Feng Tianwei in the women's singles event on Thursday was a golden opportunity missed.

Saz Sazali, who attended the ceremony with his wife and two children, has been monitoring Team Singapore's performance and he was saddened by the shock exit of Feng in the women's singles event and the national Under-23 footballers' 2-1 defeat by Myanmar on Thursday.

"Things like this happen, but it's alright, I'm sure they will bounce back and become stronger," said the 49-year-old, who will be watching the equestrian competition because his 12-year-old daughter, Shifa, is also learning horse-riding.

The foreign fans were also out in force at the National Stadium yesterday.

Myanmarese Htet Htet Khine, 30, missed the chance to watch the 27th Games' opening ceremony in her home country two years ago.

SUPPORT

That is why she decided to visit Singapore with her husband to support her country's football team.

"I've been supporting our team for about 20 years, and our team are very strong this year. I think they are capable of winning the gold," she said.

Malaysian Dainawati Noor Arif 
travelled from Johor Baru to watch the football competition and the opening ceremony.

"I'm actually here to support our football team, but they lost (laughs). A bit frustrated, but I hope our netball team will go to the final," she said.

There were others who had to wait for 22 years to witness Singapore hosting another SEA Games.

Singaporean Chan Yee Kew, 62, who attended the ceremony with his wife, said: "I thought, no matter what, I must get a ticket to come (for the opening ceremony). I might not be around when Singapore hosts the next one.

Recalling his experience of watching the 1993 Games, he added: "I still remember I watched the football match between Singapore and Vietnam in 1993. Singapore lost, but it was still interesting. This time, I'm going to watch taekwondo and wushu with my grandchildren."

Philip Foo, 57, who attended the ceremony with wife, son, and sister, said: "Such activities do bond us together."

SEA Gamesopening ceremony