SINGAPORE — After a two-year hiatus, the nation’s birthday bash returned to the Marina Bay Floating Platform this year, drawing a nod from the crowd who revelled in traditional favourites missing from last year’s line-up, including the Red Lions parachutists.
Several elements which made their debut at this year’s parade — such as a simulated terrorist attack and unmanned drones dotting the night sky — also kept the 25,000-strong crowd on the edge of their seats.
Amid heightened security measures, the spectators started streaming into the venue from mid-afternoon.
As the start of the parade drew closer, the emcees warmed up the crowd, by getting them on their feet to create a “Kallang wave”, turning the floating platform into a sea of red and white, with flags a-flutter.
A short while later, all eyes were on the sky as nine Red Lions parachutists glided gracefully back to earth, to expectant cheers and rapturous applause. Heads were turned skyward again as five F-15SG fighter jets roared overhead and executed a “bomb burst” manoeuvre.
At the first hint of dusk, the past and current national servicemen among the crowd were asked to rise from their seats, as they were given a special salute by the 2,000 or so participants from 31 contingents, to mark five decades of National Service.
An NS50 tribute video was also screened, among other features to celebrate the contributions of servicemen.
As part of the parade’s dynamic defence display, a simulated terrorist attack played out among the audience, as gunfights and explosions ensued with film-style special effects.
The item showcased Singapore’s coordinated response to a terrorist attack, with military commandos and police officers taking out the perpetrators, and the Singapore Civil Defence Force attending to the casualties, for example.
As the evening wore on, spectators were served up a visual treat as hundreds of unmanned drones lit up the night sky, forming shapes such as a heart, an outline of the island, and the Merlion.
The night worked its way to a climax as fireworks were set off against the glimmering skyline amid familiar tunes such as Stand Up For Singapore.
The spectators singled out the return of the Red Lions, the simulated terrorist attack and the drone display as highlights.
The five-minute drone light show featured 300 drones in the air at the same time, and was the largest in South-east Asia.
Writer Desiree Liew, 24, said she enjoyed the dazzling drone display, while customer service executive Kenneth Chua, 27, was enthralled by the simulated attack.
“You get to know the vehicles, how they tackle the (terrorism) threat (and that) national security is in their good hands and we’re safe,” Mr Chua said.
For Ms Sharon Woo, 26, the Red Lions were the highlight. “Everyone was expectant as they came down,” said the accounts executive.
Digital designer Tan Yong Yu, 26, enjoyed the parade segment the most, having gone through National Service. “(We know) a little bit ... but the parade shows a whole spectrum.”
While this year’s parade marked many firsts, it was the last for President Tony Tan Keng Yam as reviewing officer, with the Presidential Election due to be held next month.
Speaking to reporters after the parade, he said that every NDP held “special memories” for him, and he was “very grateful for the opportunity to serve as President and to reach out to Singaporeans”.
Spectators who spoke to TODAY cheered the move to hold the parade at the floating platform, noting that the electric atmosphere and unrestricted views were a cut above the National Stadium and the Padang.
Last year’s NDP was held at the National Stadium at the Sports Hub, while the 2015 parade — which capped the SG50 celebrations — was held at the Padang.
Madam Lim Chong Eng, 56, said of the floating platform: “You can feel the atmosphere ... (The National Stadium) was not as good as (it is) here. You could see (the goings-on) on the screen, but we were not part of it,” said the accountant.
Accounts executive Jenny Poh, 23, felt the organisers should hold the parade permanently at the floating platform. “We have Marina Bay Sands and the Central Business District (as the backdrop).”
Ms Woo added: “(It’s) definitely a better atmosphere. You can see everything (from the spectator stands).”