Saturday, June 30, 2007

Histories, Memories, & Sentimental Values

Today marked the end of the fate of my country's National Stadium.

Built in 1965, it had witnessed many great moments of her country, not just in the sporting arena but, throughout her entire life of service, significant events that are of political, cultural and certainly national interests.

For one, 1965 was the year that Singapore was separated from 'Malaysia', a name adopted in 1963 when the 'Federation of Malaya' was formed. This was with the inclusion of Singapore, Sabah and Sarawak, where there were 14 states altogether. Along the way, politically-charged tension and conflicts unsettled the union, and subsequently the 14-state Federation was reduced to 13 when Singapore was being expelled out abruptly.

On 9 August 1965, 'Independence' was formally thrust into the hands of Singapore, an island of 697 square kilometres. From the lack of natural resources like clean water, (crude) oil, gas, timber, sand, to human supplies like commercial plantations, industrial skilled workers, and military forces, and to hardware infrastructures like power plants and security systems, Singapore is virtually a sovereign state with her gates opened wide. Notwithstanding the fact that in that critical time, those left on the land of Singapore were no more than lowly-educated immigrants of China, India, Malaysia, Indonesia, and several parts of Asia.

The future of Singapore was certainly bleak and hopeless then, with its path ahead dimmed and treacherous.

Against this turbulent background of national unrest, the idea to have a "stadium of our own" was mooted - a gathering ground for all races and identities to engage in not just watching the sports activities, but with one another. The hope for all Singaporeans adopting a common nationality, sharing the torch of a common awareness for their own fate and future, is thus sealed in each and every concrete block used for the construction of it. Singapore has finally gotten her own national icon she can be proud of.

The laying of foundation was completed in 1970, and upon its official opening in 1973, the National Stadium has welcomed many prestigious and prominent figures from all over the world. From 'moon-walking' with Michael Jackson to rocking with Deep Purple, and to swaying with Robbie Williams, from Muhammad Ali 'floating by' and gracing the venue and to Pope praying with his followers, from regional tournaments to pre-Olympic qualifying soccer tournaments, and the unforgettable annual National Day parades that remind us of our country's sudden yet painful birth, the National Stadium certainly has stood testament to a whole two generations of sentiments and emotions throughout these 34 years.

In this prime age of maturity and completeness, she humbly bows out of this memorable journey of fulfillment, lending way for a newer and more sophisticated 'Sports Hub'.

On one hand, it is sad to see something so meaningful and memorable leaving those whom are sentimentally attached to it; on the other hand, it's peculiar to think that an inanimate building could trigger the emotional senses of so many, nameless, faceless, ordinary and common people. Some maybe of prestigious backgrounds, but many more are the ones whom we meet along the way and chatted with, the ones whom we may easily overlook when on the rush.

Yes, a building maybe lifeless; however humans have always been endowed with this unique sense of space and time, where since time immemorial, we have had perhaps learnt to look up to the sky in search of answers to queries for time of weathers, changes of seasons, positions and locations, and ultimately, the meaning of their existences to the graceful lights of gods. Answers which could only be found in the starry heaven of stars and light.

As the world evolves and modernises, humans no longer look up to the sky for that definitive moment of enlightenment. Yet, we may still never be able to move away from the inherent desire to looking out for and up to an awe-inspiring structure, a magnificent building, or simply a defining icon. It is from there that humans return to their primal, natural instinct of accepting a life grander, a presence stronger, and a significance larger, than their very own. It is from here that they would begin to understand that apart from their own microcosmic existence, there lies a greater self than any individual. It is called 'humanity'.

It is only from here and with this understanding, that the true meaning of common identity and co-existence shines. Where once it was a building constructed with bricks, cement and sand, it now radiates with brilliance, memories, sentiments and emotions; where once it was a building planned and drawn up from blue prints and devices, it has risen from the concrete foundation to instilling life and historical values into its admirers; and where humans have stepped in to witness the grandeur of the undying spirits of sportsmanship, it might also be the very spirits that the building became respectable and memorable.

True and indeed, the magnificence of any building or site is only as much as the significance of historical values written by the hands of those humans residing there. Without those who fought, struggled, pained, teared, fallen or risen victorious, there would be no memories to begin with; neither would history be written, nor sentimental values imprinted and treasured.

Life awakens life, and polishes it. In these final hours before the unavoidable disintegration of this monumental structure, there certainly will be thousands who reminisce the beautiful images and unforgettable moments that have appeared in the course of their lives; pictures and scenarios which only they can feel and comprehend fully the significance of those memories.

While others, or even future generations, may not come to grasp the weight of this special relationship shared between this entire generation of Singaporeans and the building itself, the truth remains that there will always be one 'National Stadium' in the heart of every Singaporean who has the opportunity to step in, breathe its air, witness its silent grandeur, and be immersed in her brilliant lights of historical significance. Without a doubt, memories of this stadium will definitely come to stir and pulsate steadily in the lives of many Singaporeans, in the many many years to come.

Witnessing the humble birth and progress of a Third World country to First, the National Stadium has indeed been like a quiet lady guardian for Singapore's past three generations, lovingly overlooking on all those who have given their all. Like an actress crowned with a tiara adorned with colourful gems, she's bowing out gently and majestically for the last time, after countless rounds of applause and encores.

Farewell, National Stadium.

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