With no grand public square here, where will ET land?

With no grand public square here, where will ET land?

So where is an alien supposed to land its flying saucer in Singapore for a dramatic entrance as it demands to be taken to our leader?

Looking down from that spaceship hovering hesitantly over the island, the interplanetary visitor would see the choice of a few urban plazas - with more to come as promised by the recently unveiled Urban Redevelopment Authority Draft Master Plan.

But where is that definitive public square, that one grand space where Singaporeans might converge upon in times of national events? And even if we had such a space, would we grumpily head that way in the heat and humidity without the lure of fireworks and goody bags?

Consider the open-air mediaeval squares of Europe like the beautiful shell-shaped Piazza del Campo of Siena; or the National Mall unrolling like an endless emerald carpet in Washington, DC; or Trafalgar Square with its watchful statues in London. They draw the eyes, hearts and spirit of people... as well as potential extraterrestrial visitors.

The spaceship noses its way towards the Padang in Singapore, its captain excited by what looks like a rival flying saucer near the field. The "UFO" is then disappointingly identified as a non-flying object; it is the circular top part of the current Supreme Court building. The nearby old Supreme Court building and City Hall are assertive, beautiful structures which point to the Padang in front of them as being Singapore's grand public square (or oblong, if you insist). And it was so for years.

The field was a witness to historical, political as well as literal fireworks. National Day parades, big sporting events and New Year's Eve celebrations.

Should the alien land in the Padang today, it might find startled cricket enthusiasts who would respond to its demands to be taken to their leader by directing it to recently retired cricket superstar Sachin Tendulkar in India.

Or perhaps people would point to that wayward runner of last Sunday's Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore. He completed barely 6km of the 42.195km route, but crossed the finishing line by the Padang as the Singaporean "winner" for a couple of hours until he was disqualified.

The venue undoubtedly has historical weight, but it has become more usually like that pleasant place you glance at as you drive by or ride by in a bus on the way to somewhere else.

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