ONLY about 26,500 people can be seated at the Padang, where next year's National Day Parade (NDP) will be held, but half a million more can hang out nearby to watch Singapore's 50th birthday bash live.
That is if the golden jubilee celebrations are extended from "Party Central" at the Padang to areas such as Marina Bay and Orchard Road, said event organisers and people involved in previous parades.
Live telecasts and performances can be staged at various "hot spots" including the Esplanade, Marina Barrage and Orchard Road to bring the festivities and cheer to more people, they added.
Orchard Road can be closed off, suggested Ms Beatrice Chia- Richmond, managing director of concert promoter Running Into The Sun.
"NDP can start from Orchard Road. Put up big screens and allow people from all walks of life to congregate and take part in the street parade, making it a real people's parade," said Ms Chia-Richmond, 39, who is the creative director for next year's South-east Asian Games opening and closing ceremonies.
Such a street party will be similar to the Swing Singapore parties in the 1980s and 1990s. The Millennium Swing party drew 400,000 revellers to a 2.7km stretch in Orchard, including Scotts Road and the areas near Forum Galleria and Centrepoint Shopping Centre.
Defence Minister Ng Eng Hen said in Parliament last week that next year's NDP organisers are exploring ways to let more Singaporeans watch the celebrations.
These include adding more seats at the Padang or creating satellite areas throughout Marina Bay for people to watch the preview and actual parade live.
But there is a limit to the number of people who can be at the showgrounds, said Brigadier- General (Ret) Teo Jing Siong, who was behind NDP 2007.
Adding make-shift spectator stands or building them higher is not feasible, he said.
"It is a temporary structure... It will not be as safe. It will also cost too much money to use stronger and bigger beams to support a taller structure."
Then there is the issue of making sure spectators can view the action. "With more seats, you push more people higher up, but sacrifice their viewing angles as they will be too far away from the show centre... It then becomes pointless," he said.
While erecting large LED screens with good resolution allows more to watch the show, organisers can also bring Parade favourites like the march past, mobile column and aerial displays to other places, said managing director of Asia PR Werkz Cho Pei Lin.
The 36-year-old, who has organised mass events, said: "With a little tweaking and re-routing of where the vehicles go or planes' flight paths, more people will see a lot more than just video images and will be more engaged."
But Ms Chia-Richmond, who was behind the creative direction of NDP 2011, said Singaporeans can also find their own ways of celebrating.
"A big bash is great, but it doesn't have to always be an organised mass event to celebrate National Day. Something as simple as a barbecue with family and friends or potluck with neighbours can be just as meaningful."
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