The 7th SEAP Games



The first international sports event ever held in Singapore was the 7th Southeast Asian Peninsular (SEAP) Games from 1 to 8 September 1973.1 There were 16 sporting events and a total of 1,623 athletes from seven countries who took part in the SEAP Games.2 Singapore fielded the largest contingent with 454 athletes who took part in all 16 events.3

Hosting the 7th SEAP Games
Singapore had originally been selected by the SEAP Games Federation Council as host of the 6th SEAP Games in 1971. The request was turned down as Singapore did not yet have the facilities for such an event.4
However, as the construction of the National Stadium at Kallang was nearing completion in 1971, Singapore decided to submit a bid to host the 7th SEAP Games to be held in 1973.5 Singapore was also keen to host the SEAP Games to complement the country’s on-going “Sports for All” programme. It would also foster Singapore’s ties among the various participating nations.6

Preparing for the games
Once Singapore’s bid had been accepted, an organising committee was formed to take charge of the preparations for the games.7
Then Minister-in-charge of Sports Othman Wok was appointed president of the committee, and E. W. Barker, then president of the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) and the Minister for Law and National Development, became the chairman.8 A SEAP Games Secretariat and 12 sub-committees under officers from the SNOC, National Sports Promotion Board (NSPB) National Stadium Corporation (NSC) (the NSPB and NSC were merged to form the Singapore Sports Council on 1 October 1973) and other related government organisations, were also set up to handle all the responsibilities entailed by the organisation of the games. These included finance, press and public relations, ceremonies, transport, security and traffic, accommodation, medical and protocol.9

In June 1973, to commemorate Singapore’s hosting of the 7th SEAP Games, the Singapore Mint, Board of Commissioners of Currency and the Postal Services Department jointly issued a philatelic numismatic cover consisting of a S$5 silver coin and a set of six SEAP Games stamps with a total value of S$2.35.10
Only 10,000 sets, each costing S$15, were issued for sale. Each set was accompanied by a colour brochure and a certificate of authenticity. The currency board also issued 250,000 of the commemorative S$5 silver coin to be sold at S$6 each at banks and its office at Empress Place.11 Each person was only allowed to purchase one coin, and for every coin sold, 60 cents went into funding the SEAP Games.12

When the coins went on sale on 9 July 1973, thousands of people queued up at the currency board, with the queue “snaking its way all round
Empress Place, near the banks of the Singapore River and down towards Parliament House” (now The Arts House).13 When the sale ended on 21 July, all 250,000 coins were sold.14 A presentation pack containing a First Day cover and a set of six SEAP Games commemorative stamps was also released for sale at $2.95 each from 1 September at all post offices.15

The opening ceremony
The newly completed
National Stadium was the venue of the opening ceremony on 1 September 1973. An estimated crowd of about 50,000 spectators watched the “most colourful” ceremony. It showcased more than 5,000 Vigilante Corps members flashing “mammoth pictures and messages of welcome” with coloured placards in front of the “colourful displays and dances by school children”.16

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Barker said that the games would “strengthen ties” among SEAP nations, as well as provide the region’s athletes with a platform to prepare for the Asian and Olympic games.17
Barker also highlighted the importance of promoting sports to the people. He said that sports are a form of “social investment” because they “build healthy minds and healthy bodies”. This would in turn prevent “vast and wasteful expenditure on hospitals” and continue to “contribute to the progress of the society to the maximum possible extent”.18

The games were opened by then President of Singapore
Benjamin Sheares. This was followed by “spectacular pageantry” marked by the release of 19,000 balloons and a 21-gun salute amid cheers from spectators.19 The cauldron was lit by Singapore sprinter C. Kunalan. The SEAP Games flame had been lit earlier by Othman Wok on 24 August 1973 on Mount Washington (present-day Mount Faber) and had been carried to the National Stadium by a relay of runners.20 Kunalan then completed the last lap before jogging up to the side of the cauldron, which was at the highest point of the stadium, to set it alight.21

The 16 game events
There was a total of 16 events comprising track and field, badminton, basketball, boxing, cycling, football, hockey, judo, sepak takraw, tennis, shooting, swimming, table tennis, volleyball, weight-lifting, and sailing.22
Besides the National Stadium, other venues included Chung Cheng High School, Chung Hwa Girls’ School, Farrer Park Athletic Centre, Sembawang Circuit, Gay World Stadium, Jalan Besar Stadium, Katong Grange Hotel, National Junior College, Rifle Range at Mount Vernon, People’s Theatre, Queenstown Reserve Unit Base, Singapore Badminton Stadium, and Toa Payoh Swimming Compex.23

A total of 1,623 athletes from Malaysia, Thailand, Khmer Republic, South Vietnam, Burma (now Myanmar), Laos and Singapore took part in the games.24


The Games Village
Toa Payoh was chosen as the Games Village because of its proximity to the National Stadium and the availability of the newly-built Toa Payoh sports complex facilities for the use of the athletes.25
Being a newly developed town, Toa Payoh also had markets, shops, entertainment and medical services.26

The athletes were housed in four 25-storey residential blocks, each with 96 apartment units.27
Each unit housed six athletes, two per bedroom. The fully furnished units were finished with mosaic and parquet flooring. There was also a recreation floor on the second storey of each block that offered communal television viewing, indoor games facilities and hot/cold drinks machines.28 The SEAP Games Secretariat was also located in the Games Village in a three-storey building near one of the residential blocks. A police operations centre was also  set up at the  SEAP Games Secretariat together with police posts at each  residential block to ensure the safety of  athletes  and officials.29


Then Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Goh Keng Swee opened the SEAP Games Village on 30 August 1973. The event was commemorated with the planting of a Hop tree by Goh in the village centre. Trees were also planted by the heads of the seven country contingents to commemorate the event.30 After the games, the apartment units were sold through a balloting exercise at S$19,000 each, with an additional S$1,700 for the furnishings.31 The three-storey building that housed the SEAP Games Secretariat was converted into the Toa Payoh Branch Library, which opened on 7 February 1974.32

Singapore’s performance
The Singapore team won 45 gold medals, 50 silvers and 45 bronzes, second in the overall medal tally behind Thailand.33
The bulk of Singapore’s gold medals were from the swimmers who clinched 23 gold medals, 16 silvers and nine bronzes. The Singapore team also set 19 new SEAP Games records and one Asian Games record.34 The new Asian Games record was set by Elaine Sng in the 400m freestyle.35 The top swimmer was 19-year-old Patricia Chan who won six gold medals. A week after the 7th SEAP Games, Chan announced her retirement from competitive swimming, having garnered a total of 39 gold medals from five SEAP Games.36

Other athletes also contributed to Singapore’s medal tally. The seven members of the Singapore sailing team collected three gold medals and one silver.37
In track and field, team Singapore won its first gold medal in the games when Heather Merican, a 24-year-old mother of two, took the gold medal in the women’s 100m hurdles and broke the SEAP Games record.38 Another top performer in track and field was schoolteacher Gloria Barnabas who won the 200m sprint.39 Noor Azhar Hamid finished at the top of the high-jump event with a leap of 2.12 m. His jump broke the SEAP and Asian games records, and set a local record that remained unbroken for the next 22 years.40

The closing ceremony

The SEAP Games drew to a close on 8 September 1973. In his address at the closing ceremony held at the National Stadium, Barker said that he hoped the games had “generated” and “consolidated” friendships among the athletes. Bidding the athletes farewell, he hoped that they would “take home with them pleasant memories of the cordial ties they [had] established in Singapore”.41 President Sheares declared the games closed, the SEAP Games flag was lowered and the games flame extinguished. The games flag was handed over to Thailand, the host of the next SEAP Games.42

The solemn atmosphere then erupted into scenes of “delirious joy”. Athletes, “urged on by [the] clapping [and] cheering” of the 50,000-strong crowd, “clowned and frolicked” in the stadium arena.43
After the games, Othman Wok called for a post mortem to identify shortcomings in its organisation. He hoped that the information gathered would help Singapore in the organisation of future sports events of a similar magnitude.44



Authors
Sharon Teng & Lim Tin Seng



References
1. Singapore Sports Council. (1974). Annual report 1973. Singapore: Council, p. 11. (Call no.: RCLOS 354.5957093 SSCAR)
2. Sea Games Federation Office. (2010). 7th SEAP Games: 1973 Singapore. Retrieved from Sea Games Federation Office website: http://www.seagfoffice.org/games.php?y=7
3. Frida, E. (1973, March 24). Singapore to enter 454 for Seap. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
4. Stage the games in 1971 appeal to S’pore. (1969, December 7). The Straits Times, p. 23. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
5. Frida, E. (1971, November 15). Singapore to bid for 1973 SEAP Games. The Straits Times, p. 26. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
6. 7th SEAP Games Organising Committee (1973). 7th SEAP Games, Singapore, 1973: Bulletin. Singapore: [s.n.], pp. 5–7. (Call no: RCLOS 796 SOU)
7. Singapore Sports Council. (1974). Annual report 1973. Singapore: Council, p. 11. (Call no.: RCLOS 354.5957093 SSCAR)
8. Singapore Sports Council. (1974). Annual report 1973. Singapore: Council, p. 11. (Call no.: RCLOS 354.5957093 SSCAR)
9. 7th SEAP Games Organising Committee (1973). 7th SEAP Games, Singapore, 1973: Bulletin. Singapore: [s.n.], p. 8. (Call no: RCLOS 796 SOU)
10. Silver fiver to mark Seap Games. (1973, June 4). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
11. Silver fivers on sale from Monday. (1973, July 7). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
12. Silver fivers on sale from Monday. (1973, July 7). The Straits Times, p. 6. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
13. Tan W. L. (1973, July 10). Thousands queue up for Seap Games silver coins. The Straits Times, p. 15. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
14. Sale of silver coins stops tomorrow. (1973, July 20). The Straits Times, p. 9; All Seap Games coins sold out. (1973, September 14). The Straits Times, p. 9. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
15. Silver fiver to mark Seap Games. (1973, June 4). The Straits Times, p. 11. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
16. Singapore Sports Council. (1974). Annual report 1973. Singapore: Council, p. 11. (Call no.: RCLOS 354.5957093 SSCAR)
17. Ministry of Culture. (1973, September 1). Speech by Minister for Law and National Development, Mr. E. W. Barker, at the opening ceremony of the 7th SEAP Games at the National Stadium on 1 September, 1973, at 1800 hours. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website: http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline 

18.
Ministry of Culture. (1973, September 1). Speech by Minister for Law and National Development, Mr. E. W. Barker, at the opening ceremony of the 7th SEAP Games at the National Stadium on 1 September, 1973, at 1800 hours. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website:
http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline
19.
Chandran, R. (1973, September 2).
Sheares opens SEAP Games. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
20.
Make it a happy games: Othman. (1973, August 25). The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
21.
Chandran, R. (1973, September 2). Sheares opens SEAP Games. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
22.
7th SEAP Games Organising Committee (1973). 7th SEAP Games, Singapore, 1973: Bulletin. Singapore: [s.n.], p. 17. (Call no: RCLOS 796 SOU)
23.
7th SEAP Games Organising Committee (1973). 7th SEAP Games, Singapore, 1973: Bulletin. Singapore: [s.n.], p. 21. (Call no: RCLOS 796 SOU)
24.
Sea Games Federation Office. (2010). 7th SEAP Games: 1973 Singapore. Retrieved from Sea Games Federation Office website: http://www.seagfoffice.org/games.php?y=7; Frida, E. (1973, April 14). Malaysia enters for all 16 events
. The Straits Times, p. 27. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
25.
Toa Payoh is games village. (1972, January 21). The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
26.
7th SEAP Games Organising Committee (1973). 7th SEAP Games, Singapore, 1973: Bulletin. Singapore: [s.n.], pp. 14–16. (Call no: RCLOS 796 SOU)
27.
7th SEAP Games Organising Committee (1973). 7th SEAP Games, Singapore, 1973: Bulletin. Singapore: [s.n.], p. 19. (Call no: RCLOS 796 SOU)
28.
Frida, E. (1973, August 8). Athletes happy in Seap village. The Straits Times, p. 22. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
29.
Patrols at the village. (1973, September 2). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
30.
Dr. Goh opens games Village. (1973, August 31). The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
31.
Call for sale of ‘instant live-in’ flats. (1973, October 24). The Straits Times, p. 7. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
32.
Jek to open Toa Payoh library. (1974, February 5). The Straits Times, p. 13. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
33.
Singapore Sports Council. (1974). Annual report 1973
. Singapore: Council, p. 11. (Call no.: RCLOS 354.5957093 SSCAR)
34.
Johnson, A. (1973, September 11). Elaine sets her sights on Teheran. The Straits Times, p. 22; Johnson, A. (1973, September 6). Golden harvest by our swimmers. The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
35.
Seneviratne, P. (1993). Golden moments: the S.E.A games 1959–1991. Singapore: P. Seneviratne, p. 46. (Call no: RSING 796.0959 SEN)
36.
Francis, T. (1973, September 9). I want to catch up on what I've been missing: Pat. The Straits Times, p. 24. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
37.
Great sports. (1973, September 10). The Straits Times, p. 8. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
38.
Heather wins our first goal. (1973, September 3). The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
39.
Ernest, F. (1973, September 5). Glorious Glory wins 200m in photo finish. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
40.
Singapore Sports Council. (2007). 1973: Noor Azhar Hamid. Retrieved from The Sports Museum website: http://www.sportsmuseum.com.sg/heroes/roll_of_honour/sportsman/noor_azhar_hamid.html
41.
Ministry of Culture. (1973, September 1). Speech by Minister for Law and National Development, Mr. E. W. Barker, at the opening ceremony of the 7th SEAP Games at the National Stadium on 1 September, 1973, at 1800 hours. Retrieved from National Archives of Singapore website:
http://www.nas.gov.sg/archivesonline
42.
Fong, L. (1973, September 9).
In the best SEAP spirit. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
43.
Fong, L. (1973, September 9). In the best SEAP spirit. The Straits Times, p. 1. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.
44.
Prepare for ‘78 Asian Games next year
. (1973, September 9). The Straits Times, p. 4. Retrieved from NewspaperSG.



The information in this article is valid as at 15 May 2014 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Subject
Recreation>>Sports
Sports and recreational events
Sports and games
Sports and Recreation