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Spectacle by the Bay
Publication Date : 10-08-2012
They cheered, they sang and they danced.
The occasion was Singapore's 47th birthday, but there were oh so many more reasons to celebrate the Republic at the National Day Parade (NDP) last night - not least of all, Singapore's second bronze medal at the ongoing London Olympics.
As a video montage flashed a picture of the country's most-famous paddler Feng Tianwei across a giant, Singapore-shaped screen, the 26,000 spectators at The Float@Marina Bay roared and applauded.
The celebrations also played out across Marina Bay, with 100,000 packing the area to take in the festive atmosphere.
It was a resounding show of national unity in the face of looming challenges, perhaps responding to the call by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his annual National Day message on Wednesday.
The nation's independence was being celebrated amid an "unsettled world", he said.
He noted that the economy grew 1.7 per cent in the first half of the year, but the growth forecast for the full year had been revised down to between 1.5 per cent and 2.5 per cent.
PM Lee pledged that the Government would do more to build an inclusive society underpinned by hope and love.
He called on Singaporeans to ponder what sort of future they want for themselves and their children.
Thoughts of this, however, were temporarily set aside for the NDP yesterday.
For 2-1/2 hours, viewers were drawn into a medley of real and imagined worlds - from the death-defying performance of the skydiving Red Lions to a parade of men and women in psychedelic costumes that seemed a uniquely Singaporean blend of Chingay and Cirque de Soleil.
Gasps erupted as fighter jets whizzed over skyscrapers in the central business district in an aerial ballet, and as dragon boats skimmed across the bay, spitting balls of fire into the water.
All this, set against the new Gardens By The Bay - with its "supertrees" soaring into the night sky - was magical.
No less awe-inspiring, were Singapore's uniformed soldiers - all 3,000 of them marching in step - as the parade showcased the nation's military might and paid tribute to 45 years of national service.
The spectators greeted the parade's VIPs - President Tony Tan Keng Yam, attending his first parade as head of state, and PM Lee.
The loudest cheers and applause rang out for Lee Kuan Yew, who stepped out onto the stands in a bright red shirt, followed by Mr Goh Chok Tong.
Lee, Singapore's first prime minister, responded by waving his Singapore flag.
In an NDP first, all Members of Parliament turned out in red and white outfits, instead of the white of the People's Action Party, or the Workers' Party's blue.
The three-act show, themed Loving Singapore, Our Home, also celebrated the Singapore spirit that overcame the 2003 Sars crisis and past economic downturns.
As the parade drew to a close, the moment that everyone in the audience was waiting for came at exactly 7.53pm: Fireworks bloomed into heart- and orchid-shaped starbursts in the sky.
Thousands of cameras and mobile phones turned skyward as a medley of National Day songs filled the air.
The finale was solemn. Everyone rose to their feet and in one voice, recited the pledge and sang the national anthem.
Homemaker Jenny Lim, there with her daughter and husband, said she had basked in the energy of her fellow Singaporeans at the floating platform.
She said: "We may be strangers, but to sing and dance along with everyone, it feels like we're friends and one big family."