A mural wall at the entrance of the NILA Suite, an expansive and well-stocked site open to all Games athletes and officials. Photo: SINGSOC
The athletes are shouting down the seconds till the end of the football match—but they’re not on the sidelines at Jalan Besar. In fact, it’s not Singapore against any other SEA Games country.
It’s a FIFA X-Box game at the NILA Suite for Athletes.
SEA Games athletes, spanning different sports and representing different countries, have been congregating at the NILA Suite even before the official opening of the Games on 5 June . In fact, some have arrived fresh from competing fiercely against each other for one of the 1,327 SEA Games medals at stake.
Conceptualised as a designated area for interaction and recreation, the NILA Suite is an expansive and well-stocked site open to all Games athletes and officials.
The NILA Suite is an athletes and officials interaction zone, well equipped with entertainment options such as a karaoke machine, video and archade games and never ending supply of food. Photo: John Yeong / SINGSOC
“The rationale behind it comes from the fact that, instead of having one Games Village, [this year’s athletes] are dispersed among hotels around the cities. This encourages them to see the beauty of Singapore, but it means that there is no Games Village. So, this becomes a Games Village in miniature,” explained NILA Suite manager Laura Reid.
It is furnished with – among many other entertainment options – a karaoke machine, quintessential video and arcade games, board games designed specially by students from the Institute of Technical Education (ITE), a souvenir booth where one stands a chance to obtain SEA Games goodies, and, of course, a never-ending supply of food—critical to elite athletes with high metabolisms.
Standing out as a particular highlight for the social-media-savvy young athletes is an anti-gravity photo booth. It’s not just the gymnasts now; the rest of the sports community get the chance to impress their family and friends with photos of themselves executing gravity-defying stunts online.
Brought here by Facebook and Instagram, it is a remarkable first for Southeast Asia and “really, really cool,” according to Malaysian national softball player Haifa Chin Ishak.
Team Singapore Women Basketballers seen here having a laugh at the NILA Suite, a stress free environment away from the stress of competition and training. Photo: SINGSOC
Exclaiming that it was just like being at the Trick Eye Museum in Sentosa, Team Singapore basketball player Pauline Ang said: “We can have fun with it, be creative, and post a picture online. You don’t need to go all the way to Sentosa!”
Despite the many exciting activities, the NILA Suite remains a stress-free environment for relaxation. Featuring several massage chairs both in the main room as well as a separate dimmer and quieter one, the athletes can catch a nap well away from the hustle at the Games venues.
“[We can] relieve stress here after a tiring game. You can just feel relaxed and enjoy yourself,” expressed Haifa.
“We’ve never had this kind of opportunity for all the athletes to gather in a comfortable place, and to not care about what sport you’re from,” added Team Singapore basketball player Jayne Sarah Tan.
Indeed, with the SEA Games being a regional multi-sport meet, the promotion of friendship is naturally a key aim that Singapore hopes to achieve with this Suite.
“Competition can be very fierce on the court, or in the pool, or on the pitch. But externally, once you’re in your downtime, that’s where you develop your friendships,” revealed Laura.
Concurring with Laura, Jayne remarked: “The friendship part is very important. In our hotels, we are only together with our own country or our own sport, so we don’t get to mingle with people from other sports, or even see what they look like at all!”
An Anti-Gravity Photobooth by Instagram and Facebook is also located in the NILA Suite, for athletes to take full advantage of for sharing on Instagram or Facebook. Photo: Alvin Teo / SINGSOC
Of course, keeping up with this theme, the volunteers helming the day-to-day operations of the Suite – who happen to enjoy their duties very much – will also be able to forge new and meaningful bonds with the athletes themselves.
Referring to a running enthusiast under the SportCares programme – Sport Singapore’s social arm – who met newly minted SEA Games marathon gold-medallist Soh Rui Yong while helping out at the Suite, Laura shared: “Rui Yong let him wear his medal. For our runner who comes from a hardship background, that kind of validation, empowerment, and recognition is priceless.”
As ITE student and NILA Suite volunteer Muhammad Irfan Bin Mohd Mazlan enthused: “My favourite part about volunteering here is communicating with the athletes. We always see them on the television, and we don’t know how they interact with others. They’re kind and friendly – not just the local ones, even the overseas ones!”
“This is not volunteer work. This is like entertaining myself and I get star struck when I see the athletes too!”