With the Marina Bay skyline serving as a backdrop, Singaporeans celebrated the nation's 52nd birthday and cheered the return of crowd favourites such as the Red Lions skydivers. The Marina Bay floating platform proved to be a hit for the tens of thousands of people clad in red and white, returning as a National Day Parade (NDP) venue for the first time since 2014. Last year, the NDP was held at the new National Stadium, while the SG50 bash was held at the Padang. Always intended to be an interim venue while the new National Stadium was being built, the floating platform has become a popular choice for NDP due to its location. Attendees said the whole area is an embodiment of what Singapore was, is, and will be.
Teacher Kathiravan Bhupathy, 32, said: "This is the venue for NDP. At one look here, you can see how far Singapore has come." The theme of this year's parade - #OneNationTogether - is a "call-to-action for all Singaporeans to take pride in our achievements, and to be confident in our collective future as we overcome all odds together". There were hints of the future and the Smart Nation ambition, with Edgar the robot co-hosting, and a light show put on by 300 drones taking to the skies at the same time. Pre-programmed using sophisticated algorithms, the drones winked and danced against the Marina Bay skyline.
After a two-year hiatus - due to the weather one year and logistics the next - the nine-member Singapore Armed Forces Parachute Team, or Red Lions, returned to rapturous applause from the 25,000- strong crowd as they glided effortlessly onto the floating platform. The audience was in awe of the dynamic defence display, showcasing Singapore's military assets on land, air and sea, back also after a two-year break.
Olympic champion Joseph Schooling and Paralympic champion Yip Pin Xiu on the summit of a "mountain" at the NDP on Aug 9, 2017.
Photo: The Strait Times / Ariffin Jamar
There was also a reminder of challenges and the ability to overcome them. For the first time, yesterday's defence display included a demonstration of the Republic's capabilities in the event of a terrorist attack. Performers fired blanks while in the seating gallery to add to the realism. The show ended revealing Singaporeans who had scaled their own peaks. Swimmer Joseph Schooling, who clinched Singapore's first Olympic gold, and Paralympic champion Yip Pin Xiu stood on the summit of a replica of a mountain. They were accompanied by others such as top female police officer Zuraidah Abdullah, 55, and skills upgrader Rama Kerisna, 70.
Yesterday's celebrations also took on a sentimental note as President Tony Tan Keng Yam witnessed his last parade as head of state. Speaking to the media after the parade, he said: "I'm touched by the affection which was displayed to me tonight... I'm grateful for the opportunity to serve as President and also to reach out to Singaporeans. My wife and I believe Singapore will continue to progress and I think that we'll have a marvellous future together. But we have to strive to work on, there is no end to our journey."
This article was first published at The Strait Times, 10 August 2017.