07 July, 2015
Lee Seow Ser
Colonel Lawrence Lim, Chief Artillery Officer and Chairman of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies (OCC) of the SEA Games 2015. Photo: SINGSOC
Through the ‘secret passage of Mordor’
Exactly seven days to the start of the first mega sporting event of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games 2015, I was privileged to spend some time with Colonel Lawrence Lim, Chief Artillery Officer and Chairman of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies (OCC) of the SEA Games 201.
Towering a head taller than me, the well-built Colonel led me through a long quiet stretch of winding corridors. “It’s the secret passage of Mordor,” he gestured at the tunnel with a laugh, referring to J. R. R. Tolkien’s fictional universe in Lord of the Rings.
I imagined myself in off-limits terrain, shuffling my feet cautiously around what seemed like the snaking body of an underground dragon, rousing steadily from its summer slumber, getting ready for the big show ahead in June.
When he and I eventually emerged in the open space of the National Stadium, larger-than-life colourful animal props greeted us, against a fascinating array of red and white seats in the background.
We quickly settled down in his sparse, neat office. Here at the spanking new National Stadium, the Chief Artillery Officer and Chairman of the Opening and Closing Ceremonies (OCC) of SEA Games 2015, had spent gruelling days and nights, steering the preparations, even as he deftly rose to the occasion in late March when he had to don another hat: planning the state funeral procession upon the passing of Singapore’s late founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew.
SEA Games reconnecting college classmates
Lee Seow Ser at the number 1 formation of the 28th SEA Games Final Countdown initiative. Photo: Lee Seow Ser/SINGSOC
I said jokingly to Lawrence, “Hey, in this unique dialogue that you have kindly graced me, I also wear two hats! Firstly, as a SEA Games Digital Lead volunteer. Secondly, as your long-time friend and former college classmate.”
We had known each other even before the last time Singapore hosted the SEA Games 22 years ago in 1993. As former classmates in college, our friendship ties have uncannily been rekindled, thanks to the SEA Games.
Lawrence was indeed pleasantly surprised to bump into me recently at the SEA Games Volunteers Appreciation Night earlier in February, held at the Universal Studios Singapore. Yet, given that I have always been active in sports and enjoy writing, he was hardly surprised to learn I volunteered at the Youth Olympic Games as a Youth Interpreter (Languages Services – French), and now at the 28th SEA Games in digital content production.
“Yup, being a sports volunteer allowed me to combine my passions for sports, writing and languages,” I beamed.
We were both truly elated to have reconnected, in this unforeseen but incredibly special way – through our respective roles, participating in and contributing to the SEA Games. To think that when Singapore last hosted the biennial Games in 1993, we were fresh college graduates studying in university.
“What do you think our civics tutor Ms Lim would say, if she sees us serving the country together, having this wonderful dialogue in your ‘underground’ SEA Games office?” I asked him cheekily.
“I think Ms Lim would be happy to know that in her class, there are people like us who remain genuinely interested in one another, who have values, common experiences and bonded together, despite having graduated more than 20 years ago!” he answered.
Celebrating Extraordinary Ties
Seow Ser feeling larger than life with Lawrence & giant props. Photo: Seow Ser Lee/SINGSOC
The level of comfort between two old friends – who could just pick up where they had last left off – was clearly evident, as we caught up and reflected on issues. The hour-long interview over coffee seemed like a breeze and was utterly heartwarming.
Lawrence even jogged my memory about how he had once visited my home, proudly shared his collection of old currency notes with my father, only to realize that the latter was an even more serious and avid collector than him!
I thought, “How comforting it is to know that the high-flying Colonel is not much different from the same genuine, loyal guy I have known since college.”
I didn’t, of course, tell him this. Yet, I reckoned on a deeper, inner dimension that he would surely change – and by that, I mean he would somehow emerge from all these, a different, better man, not least after his experience in working so hard to steer his team, rallying Singaporeans to deliver a spectacular OCC at the SEA Games on home ground.
And fittingly synonymous with the tagline of the SEA Games, I believe – in every sense of the word – that our reunion in itself, is truly deserving of a celebrating the extraordinary (and literally) ‘class’-act-kind-of-a-moment.
Borne out of our ‘underground’ meeting in ‘Mordor’, was a magical rekindling of spirits, a reconnection of ties and forging of lasting friendship – not too far off the mark from the quintessence of the SEA Games spirit.
This author of this article is a volunteer content producer with Team Nila. For more content produced by Team Nila, please head to the 28th SEA Games Social Wall.