SEA Games volunteer: Spectators denied entry were fierce

SEA Games volunteer: Spectators denied entry were fierce
PHOTO: Fabian Lau

He saw spectators take pictures of his fellow volunteers.

The spectators, who could not get seats for the SEA Games closing ceremony despite having tickets, threatened to post the pictures online to hold the volunteers responsible.

On Thursday, The New Paper reported that some spectators were denied entry at the National Stadium on Tuesday while hundreds of others had to queue for hours before they could get in. About 50,000 spectators were at the closing ceremony.

The 22-year-old volunteer, who declined to be named, was giving out fun packs at the closing ceremony. He told TNP that the situation was "chaotic" and some of the spectators were fierce.

Singapore SEA Games Organising Committee (Singsoc) has since apologised, saying that some of the stadium's gates had to be closed for safety reasons. (See report at right.)

The volunteer said: "The spectators were shouting. They said things like, 'How come I have tickets but I cannot go into the stadium?' and 'I want to see your supervisor.'"

Some also tried to "argue their way" in by saying that they had family members working inside.

When things got too difficult for volunteers to handle, their leaders would try to calm the spectators down, he said. When that did not work, the police and army personnel on duty would step in.

"Some of the volunteers who interacted with spectators are quite young, they are secondary school students. So when spectators saw adult police and army officers talking to them, they tended to listen," said the volunteer, stressing that only a minority of the spectators were unpleasant.

"Most of the spectators were understanding."

He also said that in a bid to appease the spectators, the volunteers gave out as many fun packs as they could.

"It was so chaotic that we gave out whatever fun packs we could get our hands on. Some of the volunteers lost their own fun packs in which they had put their valuables."

AGITATED

General secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movement, Dr William Wan, 68, said that he could see why some spectators could have been agitated.

"When you have that many people, very enthusiastic people, there is a higher level of anxiety because they would hate to miss anything."

But he said people should exercise self-control, and have empathy for the volunteers.

He added that as host country for the SEA Games, we represent Singapore. "We need to think and behave like hosts. Singapore is home, our guests are visiting our home - if we are more conscious of that, it will help."

Marketing executive Eileen Wee, 23, who attended the SEA Games badminton quarter-finals on Sunday, said that she had a smooth experience and was ushered into the venue quickly.

"The volunteers were very helpful in finding seats for us and the spectators were generally polite," she said.

As for the closing ceremony, she said it was not the volunteers' fault - they were following orders.

"I've volunteered at events. People on the ground usually don't get to make the decisions," she said.

Undergraduate Ong Z H, 22, who attended the closing ceremony with two friends, said: "The ushers kept moving us from section to section. I felt that they were not well prepared and crowd control could have been better."

Singsoc: Enough seats for all

There were enough seats for all who came for the event, said the Singapore SEA Games Organising Committee (Singsoc).

It added that about 30 per cent of ticket holders for the SEA Games opening ceremony were "no-shows", so it had invited groups of volunteers and Voluntary Welfare Organisations to the closing ceremony.

"After accounting for these complimentary tickets, we would like to confirm that there were still sufficient seats in the stadium for all those who came for the event," Singsoc posted on Facebook on Thursday.

It explained that crowds at the closing ceremony had built up in the inner concourse of the stadium quickly, just before the ceremonies began.

TIME

"The number of people who arrived and entered the stadium could have been accommodated if we had more time to seat them at the various levels. The nature of the event, which employed dimmer show lighting, also made it difficult to direct the guests to the remaining pocket of seats around the stadium," said Singsoc.

The crowd build-up raised safety concerns, resulting in a need to "restrict further entry from the gates until it was safe to do so".

Singsoc apologised and acknowledged that it "could have done a lot better" and that "there are some very clear lessons to be drawn from this experience".

Singsoc said it is also reaching out to all affected guests. It will assist them on refund matters and provide them with the supporters' medallions.

Those affected during the closing ceremony can contact Singsoc at 1800 344 1177 from Mondays to Fridays, 9am to 6pm.


This article was first published on June 20, 2015.
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