Minister Lawrence Wong (in red) poses with a torchbearer. Photo: SINGSOC / Action Images via Reuters
It was a solemn affair and all was silent, save for the rhythmic beats from the dragon boats cruising by – presumably from Team Singapore, who were training for their upcoming events – in the Singapore River, and restless clicks from waiting cameras.
The 28th SEA Games flame was being kindled.
Harnessing energy from the sun, Lim Nghee Huat and Yong Huen Cheng were accorded the honour of igniting the flame at the Marina Bay Promontory, the morning before the opening ceremony of the Games.
Lim and Yong were neither sporting officials nor national athletes, but they have, nevertheless, proven themselves extraordinary. Having just finished running a total of 2,500 kilometres over 50 consecutive days as part of the Go50 marathon, held to celebrate the SEA Games and SG50, they kindled the flame and transferred it into a safety lantern.
GO 50 - Gerrard Lim, Lim Nghee Huat and Yong Yuen Cheng lead the the last leg of GO 50. Photo: SINGSOC / Action Images via Reuters
This marked the start of the 28th SEA Games Torch Parade, a symbolic event aimed at recognising the efforts of the community.
“Having the two ultramarathon runners do the kindling [of the flame] is our way of celebrating the extraordinary,” remarked Singapore Southeast Asian Games Organising Committee’s (SINGSOC) Community Engagement Manager Carolyn Chia.
Participants of the Extraordinary Run, a marathon organised as part of the community art engagement project Torch Up!, arrived at the Promontory as evening approached, bearing “art flames”. Torch Up! showcased art installations produced to deck the city out in honour of the Games, while the “art flames” signified the culmination of these efforts.
These flames were placed on Torch Up!’s finale piece, contributing symbolically to the actual Games torch’s flame. Minister for Culture, Community, and Youth Lawrence Wong then lit the SEA Games torch from the fire kindled earlier in the morning, indicating the commencement of the relay segment.
Involving six groups of people in total, with one stationed at each checkpoint, the selected torchbearers consisted of Team Nila representatives who hailed from all walks of life. The volunteers carried the torch on behalf of all Singaporeans, and were cheered on by a line of spectators.
“It’s the first SEA Games for my son, so I thought that it would be a very meaningful event for us,” enthused Irene Cheng, who had taken her five-year-old Anders Tham to witness the Parade.
“I brought [my son] to the [Sports Hub] for the SEA Games carnival, so it’s kind of like a series,” she added.
In high spirits over at the Torch Parade at The Promontory @ Marina Bay. Photo: SINGSOC / Action Images via Reuters
Minister Lawrence Wong (C) lights up the torch. Photo: SINGSOC / Action Images via Reuters
“As they parade around the Singapore River, it will signify the whole community coming together to support the Games.”
In fact, the torchbearers themselves, too, fully encompassed this spirit of togetherness. They had, according to one of them, pulled off the entire Parade with minimal rehearsals.
“I think today’s event shows team spirit. All of [the torchbearers] are from different [walks] of life. This is just the second time that we have met, and we could actually do this together without much preparation,” remarked Tan Shu Qin, who was the fifth torch bearer in the relay.
“This also represents our passion for volunteerism and, hopefully, it will keep burning in us, [motivating us] to keep volunteering for other events as well,” she added.
Carried along the Singapore River, the SEA Games flame switched hands at iconic landmarks that doubled as checkpoints. These included the Promontory, Clifford Square, the Merlion Park, the Esplanade, the Marina Bay Floating Platform, and the Art Science Museum.
The Parade ended at the Marina Bay Event Plaza, where the traditional flame was retired for the night. It will move to the Kallang Basin by bumboat on Friday evening, all ready to herald the start of the Games at the opening ceremony.
For more pictures on the Torch Parade, visit here.