Sports in the Civic District
Curiocity: Places & Perspectives
Looking at Singapore today, it is easy to forget that it was once dotted with kampungs and plantations. And as we have changed, so has our cityscape. By spotlighting selected leisure and entertainment places in downtown Singapore as well as presenting fascinating histories hidden in plain sight, Curiocity gives us an opportunity to examine the evolution of our spaces and reflect on our relationship with them.
Accessible both in-person and online, Curiocity invites you to discover, learn and engage with our island’s history through the content and collections from the National Library Board and its partners. Presented in partnership with the Light to Night Festival 2022, Curiocity: Places & Perspectives is held at the National Library Building (3 January – 3 February 2022) and across several locations in the Civic District (14 January – 3 February 2022). Find out more about the showcase at https://curiocity.nlb.gov.sg/events/curiocity-showcase-2022.
This resource guide has been produced to complement the satellite installation ‘LUMBA’ at the Esplanade Park, exploring the thematic focus of ‘Sports in the Civic District’.
During the colonial era, the Padang, a large open field located in front of present-day National Gallery Singapore, was one of the main venues for sporting events in Singapore. Cricket had been played there from as early as 1837. Located at one end of the Padang is the Singapore Cricket Club (SCC), the most famous sports club during that time. Since its establishment in 1852, the SCC has been holding sporting events including cricket, tennis and rugby matches on this turf. Conveniently located in the heart of the city, crowds of spectators were invariably drawn to the sports matches played on the Padang. The Civic District continues to be a popular space for large sporting events such as marathons and walkathons as well as the Formula One Singapore Grand Prix, an annual motor racing event first held in 2008.
Apart from land sports, water sports were also held in the Civic District, thanks to its proximity to the waterfront and Singapore River. The New Year Sports were the first sports organised for the general population. The sea sports segment began when the inaugural New Year Regatta was held in 1834 with sampans, tongkangs and European-owned boats competing in a few rowing and racing matches. Over the decades, the almost annual event grew to feature other activities such as swimming and diving. Rowing and sailing races also eventually included more classes of boats and other water vessels. After a clean-up campaign, which took place between 1977 and 1987, the Singapore River became the venue for the Singapore River Regatta.
This guide provides supplementary resources for those who are keen to further explore this topic. To search for more resources, go to https://search.nlb.gov.sg/. To view other resource guides created by our librarians, please visit https://reference.nlb.gov.sg/guides/.
This resource guide was prepared in December 2021 by Toffa Abdul Wahed, an Associate Librarian at the National Library, Singapore.
Aplin, Nick. Sport in Singapore: the colonial legacy. Singapore: Straits Times Press, 2019. (Call no. RSING 796.095957 APL)
Robert, Godfrey. Sports. Singapore: Institute of Policy Studies & Straits Times Press Pte Ltd, 2017. (Call no. RSING 796.095957 ROB)
Sharp, Ilsa. The Singapore Cricket Club, established 1852. Singapore: Singapore Cricket Club, 1993. (Call no. RSING 796.3580605957 SHA)
Singapore Recreation Club. Singapore Recreation Club celebrates 1883-2007. Singapore: Singapore Recreation Club, 2008. (Call no. RSING 796.0605957 SIN)
Valberg, Roger, ed. Guide to Singapore's 1st night race 2008: Formula 1 arrives in Singapore. Singapore: Regent Media Pte Ltd, 2008. (Call no. RSING 796.72 GUI)
The Singapore Marathon '84 Souvenir Programme. Singapore: Singapore Marathon ’84 Organising Committee, 1984. (From National Library, Singapore, via PublicationSG)
- Aplin, Nick. “Sports and games in colonial Singapore: 1819–1867.” In Modern sports in Asia: cultural perspectives, edited by Younghan Cho and Charles Leary, 7–18. London; New York: Routledge, 2015. (Call no. RSING 796.095 MOD)
- Brownfoot, Janice N. “’Healthy bodies, healthy minds’: sport and society in colonial Malaya.” In Sport in Asian society: past and present, edited by J. A. Mangan and Fan Hong, 129–156. London; Portland: Frank Cass, 2003. (Call no. R 796.095 SPO)
- Makepeace, Walter. “A Century of Sport.” In One Hundred Years of Singapore vol. 2, edited by Walter Makepeace, Gilbert E. Brooke and Roland St. J. Braddell, 320–380. Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1991. (Call no. RSING 959.57 ONE-[HIS])
- Raimy Ché-Ross. “’A Malay Poem on New Year’s Day (1848)’: Munshi Abdullah’s Lyric Carnival.” Journal of the Malaysian Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society 81, no. 1 (June 2008): 49–82. (From JSTOR via NLB’s eResources website)
Singapore Infopedia - articles
BiblioAsia - article
- “New Year Sea Sports.” Bintang Pranakan, 10 January 1931, 18. (From NewspaperSG)
- “Thrills at land and sea sports.” Straits Times, 2 January 1934, 15. (From NewspaperSG)
- “Malaya’s sports history.” Malaya Tribune, 8 January 1941, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
- “Grand carnival of sport, old soccer idol re-appears.” Syonan Shimbun, 30 April 1943, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
- Gibson-Hill, C. A. “New Year Sea Sports.” Straits Times Annual, 1 January 1953, 34-5. (From NewspaperSG)
- “Big leap forward in local sports.” New Nation, 13 March 1975, 9. (From NewspaperSG)
- “Soon: water sports at the Singapore River mouth.” Singapore Monitor - 2nd Edition, 4 February 1983, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
- “Sails for racing.” Straits Times, 17 May 1983, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
- “Dragons storm the river.” Singapore Monitor, 3 December 1983, 31. (From NewspaperSG)
- “Page 5 advertisements column 1.” Singapore Monitor - 2nd Edition, 7 December 1983, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
Singapore Cricket Club with clock tower of Victoria Memorial Hall visible on the right, Singapore. c. 1908. Photograph. National Archives of Singapore.
New Year Sea Sports, 1925: general view . 1 January 1925. Photograph. Edwin A. Brown Collection, PictureSG, National Library, Singapore.
Presentation of prizes at the Inter Boy’s Club football finals held at the Padang. 22 August 1950. Photograph. Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, National Archives of Singapore.
Yang Di-Pertuan Negara of Singapore Yusof Ishak attends the annual north vs south rugby match at Padang. 25 January 1964. Photograph. Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, National Archives of Singapore.
Crowd watching dragon boat race heats for inaugural Singapore River Regatta at Singapore River. 4 December 1983. Photograph. Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, National Archives of Singapore.
Raffles City, 1986: general view . 1986. Photograph. Kouo Shang-Wei Collection 郭尚慰珍藏, PictureSG, National Library, Singapore.
Oral history interviews
- Goh, Teck Phuan. Oral history interview with Chong Ching Liang, 12 October 1999. Transcript and MP3 audio, 29:36. National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 002128), 36.
- Milne, Ronald Benjamin. Oral history interview with Daniel Chew (Dr), 22 August 1984. Transcript and MP3 audio, 29:19. National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 000447), 13.
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