NDP prep time 'needs 80 days'

Performers, vendors say 45 free days at Sports Hub for set-up not enough

Spectators attending the 28th SEA Games closing ceremony at the National Stadium on June 16, 2015.
Spectators attending the 28th SEA Games closing ceremony at the National Stadium on June 16, 2015. PHOTO: ST FILE

Preparations for Singapore's annual birthday bash in August usually start at the parade venue about three months before the event, said show performers and technicians.

The 45 free days - about 11/2 months - that the National Day Parade (NDP) is given will not be enough if the Republic plans to hold the parade next year on a similar scale as before.

The Straits Times reported yesterday that the venue is still not confirmed, even though the concept and budget for the annual Aug 9 parade would usually be finalised and approved by this month.

The Ministry of Defence (Mindef) and Singapore Sports Hub are still in talks about using the 55,000-seater stadium in Kallang.

The current contract allows Mindef to use the space for free for only 45 days, which it said is not enough. The 35 extra days it wants, however, will cost $26 million, said the Sports Hub. The Straits Times understands that the figure has now been lowered to $10 million.

Mr Dennis Lee, 56, Singapore Soka Association's director of arts, culture and community, said full-dress rehearsals for NDP begin as early as mid-June. Even then, "the technical set-up has to be done at least one week before to make sure that everything, from lights to sound, works".

The Japanese Buddhist group, a regular performer at Singapore's birthday celebration, starts its preparation as early as April every year.

Mr Lee, who first performed at the 1981 NDP, said: "Forty-five days (before Aug 9) is really too tight."

Ms Sharon Ong, 44, a project manager who has managed the parade's lights for the past four shows, said her company Showtec starts setting up in mid-May. "But (whether 80 days is necessary) depends on the scale of the project," she said, noting that the earliest movers are vendors who have to set up the stage. "Once the stage is up, then we can start hanging the lights... The time was just enough for us to test everything out."

Freelance choreographer Gordon Choy, 40, who has been involved with all NDP shows - bar one - since 2006, said the minimum time he needed to get the show ready was three months before the event.

A Sports Hub spokesman confirmed yesterday that "negotiations with Mindef are still ongoing and are being conducted in a collaborative and cordial manner".

An announcement will be made when the talks are over, he added.

The $1.33 billion Singapore Sports Hub is a public-private partnership between government agency Sport Singapore (formerly the Singapore Sports Council) and Singapore Sports Hub, a consortium of companies that runs the 35ha facility.

Netizens left mostly negative comments on social networking site Facebook. One netizen who called himself Shi Wei said the organisers should stick to the floating platform and the Padang as the Marina Bay area "has more energy and buzz than Kallang".

Mr Felix Lee, a 36-year-old architect who went with his wife and two children to the Jubilee parade at the Padang, said: "What really upset me was that Sports Hub wanted to charge such a high price - be it $10 million or $26 million - for our nation's birthday."

If the NDP is held at the Sports Hub next year, it will mark its return to Kallang 10 years after the last parade was held in 2006.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 12, 2015, with the headline 'NDP prep time 'needs 80 days''. Subscribe