The Singapore SEA Games Organising Committee (Singsoc) yesterday refuted reports that tickets were over-issued for the closing ceremony on Tuesday but it admitted it "should have done a lot better" in managing the large crowd at the National Stadium.
Based on the experience at the June 5 opening ceremony, where about a third of ticket holders were no-shows, Singsoc said Team Nila volunteers and voluntary welfare organisations were invited to the finale - in addition to ticketed spectators.
But it insisted there were sufficient seats in the 55,000-capacity arena, even after accounting for complimentary tickets.
However, due to the fast build-up of spectators before the event and the dimming of lights that made directing guests to their seats difficult, there was insufficient time to usher fans to the various levels of the stadium.
Safety concerns were raised as large crowds began to form at the gates and the inside concourse.
A decision was then made to shut some gates, leading to fans outside being shuttled between different entry points, while some were denied entry altogether and did not receive a goodie bag.
Several volunteers came in for verbal abuse from disgruntled spectators who also took to social media to vent their fury.
"There are some very clear lessons to be drawn from this experience that did not surface during the Opening Ceremony, like 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," Singsoc said in a statement on its Facebook page yesterday afternoon.
It added that the decision to allow sections of the crowd to enter the field for a post-show dance party was "pre-planned and coordinated" with stadium operators and security personnel.
Singsoc said: "The intention was to allow access by members of the public after the athletes and volunteers had made their way down.
"The safety limit on the number of persons on the pitch was not breached."
A full refund, along with a supporters' medallion, has been offered to those who paid for the tickets, which cost up to $40.
Spectators The Straits Times spoke to were divided over how they will remember the close of the 12-day sporting extravaganza.
Ship mechanic Elias Heng, 24, said: "The closing ceremony was memorable in the wrong way for me.
"It was over-crowded and they kept moving us from gate to gate but we were still stuck and couldn't see."
Lawyer Edmund Kho, 43, believes the volunteers should be absolved of any blame. He said: "It is the main organisers who should reflect on whether their planning was sufficient and appropriate.
"I hope this debacle won't detract from what has been a great SEA Games from the sporting sense."
This article was first published on June 19, 2015.
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