The Singapore Southeast Asian Games Organising Committee (SINGSOC) says it “apologises for the inconvenience caused and disappointment of those who went to the National Stadium and were unable to attend the closing ceremony of the 28th SEA Games on Tuesday.”
In a statement on Thursday, Mr Toh Boon Yi, Chief, Community and Corporate Outreach of SINGSOC, explained why some were unable to gain entry into the stadium.
The incident on Tuesday had left many angry and frustrated, and they questioned the organisation of the event.
There have also been queries on whether tickets for the evening were oversold, which could have resulted in the bottleneck at the gates.
Mr Toh revealed that “based on the experience at the opening ceremony, where about 30 per cent of ticket holders were ‘no shows’”, SINGSOC had invited Team Nila volunteers and voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs) to the closing ceremony.
Estimates of the number of ticket holders who were left stranded on Tuesday range between a few hundreds to several thousands.
SINGSOC did not provide numbers on the volunteers and the VWOs which it now says it had invited to the closing ceremony.
Nonetheless, Mr Toh said that “after accounting for these complimentary tickets, there were still sufficient seats in the stadium for all those who went for the event.”
The Online Citizen (TOC) had earlier reported:
“The Sports Hub has a maximum capacity of 55,000, and factoring in seats that need to be allocated for display and participants, it would likely be configured to hold about 40,000 seated ticket holders for the closing ceremony.”
If this was an accurate projection, it would mean SINGSOC had possibly issued anywhere between 10,000 to 15,000 tickets for volunteers and the VWOs.
This compares to the “30 per cent” who were “no shows” on Tuesday night, according to Mr Toh’s claims, which leaves further questions on why so many – thousands – were “no shows” for such an important and well-publicised event.
Still, Mr Toh said, of the events on Tuesday night, “In fact, the number of people who arrived and entered the stadium could have been accommodated if we had more time to seat them at the various levels,” Mr Toh said in his statement.
However, he said “the crowds built up over a short period just prior to the commencement of the ceremony.”
Mr Toh said that one reason which contributed to the difficulty in directing ticker holders past the gates and to the “remaining pockets of seats around the stadium” was the “dimmer show lighting” employed that evening.
“All this created a build-up at the inner concourse of the stadium and raised concerns for safety,” Mr Toh said. “This resulted in a need to restrict further entry from the gates until it was safe to do so.”
He said that “there are some very clear lessons to be drawn from this experience that did not surface during the opening ceremony.”
These, Mr Toh said, included “how to have better informed everyone on arrival timings; and how to better manage the rapid build-up of crowds and the ushering at entry gates.”
“We acknowledge that we should have done a lot better,” Mr Toh said.
Some in the frustrated crowd on Tuesday were reported to have directed their anger at the volunteers, resulting in some of them being in tears.
The SINGSOC Steering Committee is headed by Minister of Culture, Community and Youth (MCCY), Lawrence Wong.
Mr Wong himself has not made any remarks about the incident thus far.