Even a man like Raja Singh, who jumped out of planes as a commando in his youth before a cycling accident left him paralysed, could not help but be amazed at the sight before him yesterday.
Close to 8,000 supporters, mostly dressed in red, gathered at the Marina Bay Sands' event plaza to attend the Asean Para Games (APG) mass rally and Singapore's chef de mission was at a loss for words.
Said Singh: "I was overwhelmed by the turnout.
"The minute I arrived, it felt like this was a national event, not simply a disability event... It was truly One Team Singapore."
The carnival kicked off with the Singapore Disability Sports Council's Reindeer 2km Walk-a-Wheelathon.
Some $165,000 was pledged from its sponsors.
With 19 days till the Dec 3-9 APG, the festival was part of the organisers' push to raise awareness for the biggest para-sports event hosted in Singapore.
Said Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu: "We would like to see this as the start of a movement of supporting disability sports.
"That societal attitudes and mindsets can start to change with this Games and we would like to see Singaporeans embracing not just disability sports but an inclusive society in all sense of the word."
She and Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for National Security Teo Chee Hean had earlier officiated the lighting of the APG flame as well as the flag presentation and oath-taking ceremony.
Singh handed the Republic's flag to swimmer Yip Pin Xiu, who will be Singapore's official flag-bearer.
Para bowler Thomas Yong then led the crowd of able-bodied and para athletes - who included the likes of SEA Games champions Jazreel Tan and Amanda Lim - in reciting the athletes' pledge.
Teacher Priyadharshini Krishnan came with four colleagues and 11 students from Grace Orchard School, a special needs institute.
"Two of our students are participating in the APG so we're here to give them our support and to give other students the exposure."
With words of encouragement like "You guys are an inspiration to all of us" and "Believe in Yourself" pinned on a temporary well-wishing wall that had been set up under the tentage outside MBS, support was evident in other ways.
Said Yip, the country's first Paralympic champion: "All of us are training hard and we hope to see Singapore get behind us, dressed up in red to support us at the Games and beyond."
Hosted in the Republic for the first time at a cost of $75 million, the 8th APG will see 3,000 athletes and officials from the 11 participating countries.
Singapore will be represented by 157 athletes, with more than 60 per cent of them making their debuts.
The country's best showing was at the inaugural 2001 edition in Kuala Lumpur, snapping up 16 golds, 10 silvers and 11 bronzes.
Singh declined to make any medal predictions yesterday.
"Medal-wise, it all comes through preparation," he said.
"If they prepare well, everything will fall into place."
While the pressure will be on the home team to deliver, para table-tennis player Mu Yu Guang felt that this would actually serve as additional motivation.
He added: "We hope this pressure can be converted to drive, to let us fly high."
- Additional reporting by Serena Yeh
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