Nov 11, 2010

Missing Capsule and Missed Opportunity at the National Stadium

Kallang Sea Sports
Tranquility on the other side of Kallang Basin

Few weeks ago, I finally stopped procrastinating and set off to the National Stadium. I can’t remember the last time I had a good look at the place; my last major activity was NDP almost a decade ago as a conscript and other activities in the area – at Indoor Stadium and Tanjong Rhu – also took place many moons ago. I was not alone. The authorities also procrastinated - on the demolition of this great sporting venue. It was only 3 years later after the official closing ceremony that they started to strip the grass pitch bare and confirm the writing on the wall. Ironically I was not propelled to action by the eventual demise but a small historical event before the birth of the National Stadium.

If you read the news and understand that human beings are greedy, you might have guessed the reason. The Straits Times of 12 Oct 2010 reported that:

A BOUNTY of $50,000 awaits the party who finds the soon-to-be-demolished National Stadium's missing time capsule. The reward, put up by Sports Hub Pte Ltd, the company that will run the Sports Hub to come up on the site, shows a premium has been put on finding this piece of Singapore's sporting history. The capsule, buried in 1970, contains the stadium's building plans, newspaper clippings from that year and currency notes. Laid underground by then Finance Minister Goh Keng Swee, it is believed to be below the west entrance, near the VIP carpark.

Wow, you can be $50,000 richer if you find the missing time capsule. A grand adventure possibly ending with 50 grand awaits me! I must have been too excited to notice this line further down the article:

Unfortunately, individuals eyeing the reward for finding the National Stadium capsule can perish the thought, as the stadium has been boarded up and its entrances are manned at all times.

So my “grand adventure” ended without even a whimper before it started (hey it is kind of stupid right, so only the construction workers, the entrance security or their parent company can claim the reward?). What a pity as I could have started my “treasure hunt” much earlier. The capsule was already reported lost 3 years ago but I did not realize it. Here is what Today wrote on 26 June 2007:

A time capsule was buried under the foundations at Kallang by Minister for Finance Goh Keng Swee … Now, months before the National Stadium is to be torn down to make way for the Sports Hub, no one knows where it is. A special relay had been held to mark the laying of the capsule, with the likes of sprint legend C Kunalan and high-jump star Noor Azhar Hamid taking part. The metal capsule – the size of a suitcase – was thought to have been buried just in front of the staircase leading up to the grandstand tribune, where there used to be a fountain. The fountain was removed in the late 1970s and Mr Kunalan, 65, suspects the capsule might have been moved then, too.

Not knowing that I had absolutely no chance of claiming that 50 grand (even if I sneak in and find the time capsule, they can charge me with trespassing and disqualify me), I proceeded to do my research. Some research is necessary as I’m not really familiar with the National Stadium; in fact I can’t recall whether the grandstand was at the east, west, north or south entrance. I guess you can’t be bothered with such trivialities if you only watch the Malaysia Cup or NDP on TV. Only those who buy tickets to the matches or use the stadium facilities will be cognizant. Having oriented myself, I turned back the clock to find out how it was like when Goh Keng Swee buried the time capsule. Can we deduce the capsule’s location from archival photos?

Noor Azhar Hamid
Goh Keng Swee receiving the capsule from high-jump star Noor Azhar Hamid. According to the Straits Times of 24 Feb 1970, the special relay started from Empress Place and Azhar Hamid was the last leg. (Source: NAS)

Placing the time capsule
Placing the capsule a copper cylinder in its rightful place. The slab could be the foundation stone of Kallang and buried underground. I wonder what's the inscription on the slab? (Source: NAS)

In the National Library while flipping through one of those 1970s Singapore yearbooks, I found a photo of the National Stadium. Not any normal photo but one that has what appears to be a fountain in front of the grandstand staircase. The report earlier mentions that the fountain was removed in the late 1970s (the stadium was declared open in 1973 and the fountain was removed a few years later, what’s the logic?) so photos like this are rare.

National Stadium from Yearbook
Can you spot a fountain before the staircase? With this photo, it is easier to visualize what the report meant by "the metal capsule – the size of a suitcase – was thought to have been buried just in front of the staircase leading up to the grandstand tribune, where there used to be a fountain".

So I went to the National Stadium. My first time at CCL Stadium, the station looks impressive from its interior design and exit; they must have designed it to blend in with the future Sports Hub. The area underwent redevelopment with the construction of the Circle Line station and is currently under massive redevelopment into Sports Hub. I was surprised the station sits on (not below) the main road leading to the stadium from Mountbatten Road - turned out they truncated Stadium Boulevard.

Stadium Boulevard is now truncated before the MRT station (source:

Security at the construction site was tight. They boarded up the place and even the entrance of Stadium Dr from Stadium Boulevard was manned – I find it hard to believe that they are not bent on claiming the reward for themselves. I made a big detour, out to Mountbatten Road and Nicoll Highway, to check out the stadium from the other side. From the other side of Kallang Basin at Kallang Sea Sports, I saw Oasis being demolished.

Oasis Restaurant
Look carefully and you'd see that one of the roofs is missing. They have started demolishing Oasis.

So where do you think is the time capsule today?


yg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Icemoon said...

yg shouldn't delete his comments.

Anonymous said...

I think there was a nesw report not long ago that at Spring Spore, they too were not able to find their time capsule? Anyone remember reading about this?

I think the reason why these govt depts are not able to find old stuff is becos they have gotten rid of all their old staff - pun not intended. I recall that a few years ago, every govt dept seemed to be trying to outdo each other in giving out golden handshakes and outsourcing their work and privatising many functions. With younger managers having little respect for history and heritage; this kind of outcome is to be expected. What can I say, serve them right.


Lam Chun See said...

I am sure glad that I took those photos of the small building which used to house the Netball Assoc and put up the Old Buildinsg Quiz. But regret I didn't go and visit that Taiwanese Porridge restaurant at Oasis. I think I have a couple of old photos. Could have done a Second Shot.