Opening of the National Stadium

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Singapore Youth Festival Opening Ceremony 1988The 1988 Singapore Youth Festival opening ceremony at the National Stadium. The festival was officially launched on 9 July 1988 in a grand opening ceremony presided by then Minister for Education Dr Tony Tan.

The Old National Stadium
The old National Stadium, or the Grand Old Dame of Kallang, as it was affectionately called, was a site that brought and saw Singaporeans from all walks of life gather in unity to cheer their hearts out. It was a place where students proudly bore their school colours, where local heroes were born and where national records were broken. This was the stadium where the first and original Kallang Roar was first heard. More than 50,000 fans would pack the stadium during the Malaysia Cup home matches – sometimes well above the seating capacity. It was also the place to celebrate the nation’s birthday. A total of 18 National Day Parades were held at the National Stadium.
National Stadium 1970s-1980sThe National Stadium in the 1970s-1980s. (Image from National Museum of Singapore)

Opening of the Old National Stadium
The National Stadium was borne from a pressing need for a respectably sized stadium to host events of both national and international scale. The 3,000-seater Anson Road Stadium was demolished in the 1940s, leaving the Jalan Besar Stadium as the only other space capable of hosting large-scale sporting events. In 1947, representatives from various sports associations began talks for a new stadium but plans eventually fell through.

Plans for a new stadium were revived in December 1965. Minister for Culture and Social Affairs Othman Wok proposed in parliament for a proper national sports stadium that could boost sports promotion in the country. Kallang was chosen as the site for the National Stadium ahead of Balestier Plain and Farrer Park because of its prime location and proximity to other sports venues like the Badminton Hall and Jalan Besar. Its location next to Nicoll Highway also accorded greater accessibility during high-traffic events.

The construction for the National Stadium began on 7 December 1966. Lottery operator, Singapore Pools, which was owned by the Ministry of Finance, was established in 1968 to raise the necessary funds for its construction. The proceeds from lottery games Singapore Sweep and TOTO were used to fund substantial parts of the construction.

Minister for Finance Dr Goh Keng Swee laid the foundation stone in the stadium on 23 February 1970. On the same day, a time capsule containing items donated by athletes was also sealed. In 1971, the National Stadium Corporation was set up to oversee the construction of the National Stadium. The stadium was completed in July 1972.
Laying of Foundation Stone and Time CapsuleMinister of Finance Dr Goh Keng Swee laying the foundation stone and time capsule for the National Stadium on 23 February 1970. (Image from National Archives of Singapore)
Construction Begins for National StadiumMinister for Culture and Social Affairs, Othman Wok at the National Stadium construction site on 7 December 1966. (Image from National Archives of Singapore)

First Phase of Works at National StadiumThe first phase of works at the construction site of the National Stadium in Kallang. (c. 1967. Image from National Archives of Singapore)

Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew officially opened the National Stadium on 21 July 1973. The 50,000-seater stadium was recognised as one of the top sporting facilities in Southeast Asia then. Its facilities included a 400-metre eight-lane synthetic track, state-of-the-art floodlight and sound systems, electronic scoreboards, squash and tennis courts and an exhibition area.
Official Opening of the National StadiumChairman of the National Stadium Corporation Dr B K Sen speaking at the official opening of the National Stadium on 21 July 1973. The stadium was declared open by Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew. (Image from National Archives of Singapore)

The stadium was used for major sporting, cultural, entertainment and social events for over three decades. One of the biggest regional sporting events, the Southeast Asian Games, was held three times at the old National Stadium in 1973, 1983 and 1993.

Its first National Day Parade was held on 9 August 1976. It would become the preferred venue for the National Day Parade over the decades, hosting it a grand total of 18 times. Its last National Day Parade was held in 2006.
National Day Parade at the National StadiumA National Day Parade held at the National Stadium. A total of 18 National Day Parades were held at the old National Stadium. (c. 1970s-1980s. Image from National Museum of Singapore)

National Day Parade at the National StadiumA National Day Parade held at the National Stadium. A total of 18 National Day Parades were held at the old National Stadium. (c. 1970s-1980s. Image from National Museum of Singapore)

The old National Stadium also brought football fever to a new level, when Singapore won the Malaysia Cup three times after the stadium was built. Singapore won the Malaysia Cup in 1977 under coach Choo Seng Quee, in 1980 under Jita Singh, and in 1994 under Douglas Moore. The lead-ups to the finals were known to draw crowds of up to 60,000, well above the stadium capacity.

The stadium also held concerts and exhibitions. Mariah Carey and Michael Jackson were among international celebrities who have performed at the National Stadium. Boxing legend Muhammad Ali even fought in a five-round exhibition bout in 1973.

In 2005, the government announced that the National Stadium would be redeveloped to form part of the new Singapore Sports Hub development. The old National Stadium was closed officially on 30 June 2007 and subsequently demolished in 2010.
Demolition of National StadiumThis photograph is part of a collection by local photographer Chow Chee Yong’s four-month documentation that captures the last moments of the National Stadium during the demolition. (c. 2010. Image from National Museum of Singapore)

Demolition of National StadiumThis photograph is part of a collection by local photographer Chow Chee Yong’s four-month documentation that captures the last moments of the National Stadium during the demolition. (c. 2010. Image from National Museum of Singapore)

Bulbs from the National Stadium FloodlightsThese bulbs were part of the floodlights that had illuminated the old National Stadium. (c. 1973-2007. Image from National Museum of Singapore)