Memories made at Singapore Indoor Stadium: MTV awards, Bill Clinton, Tiger 5s futsal tournaments, pop concerts

Memories made at Singapore Indoor Stadium: MTV awards, Bill Clinton, Tiger 5s futsal tournaments, pop concerts

Memories made at Singapore Indoor Stadium: MTV awards, Bill Clinton, Tiger 5s futsal tournaments, pop concerts


  • The Singapore Indoor Stadium is set to be replaced by a new arena that will be “among the best-in-class globally”
  • Before it opened in late 1989, it was first conceived and designed as the successor to the popular Gay World Stadium
  • The construction of the air-conditioned indoor stadium took two short years and the costs amounted to S$90 million
  • Over the decades, scores of international and regional athletes and entertainers have played under its roof


SINGAPORE — Before Coldplay, Taylor Swift and Bruno Mars booked their post-Covid-pandemic gigs at the National Stadium here, they had already played to adoring crowds way before at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. 


In the early years after the indoor stadium was opened, the queues of people filing in included sports fans hyped up to watch Brazil's team play futsal, for instance.


Yes, in the decades when people now known as millennials and Generation Z were still in school or were not yet born, the Government and its agencies here have been wooing big-name foreign acts to this tiny island and to the air-conditioned indoor stadium.


Entertainers and athletes have done their part to try and bring the diamond-shaped roof down as audiences cheered and jeered, sang and waved lighted neon sticks — at the venue that the Government now plans to replace with a "new arena" that will be “among the best-in-class globally”.


After an almost 35-year history of hosting more than five million people across 3,000 events, the Singapore Indoor Stadium looks like it is scheduled to bow out and make way for the next young thing.


Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, announced the plans on Thursday (March 7) in Parliament and said that officials have "gone around to study some of the best arenas in the world” to learn from them.


The new arena should be able to accommodate more “sophisticated events” of different types, have a faster turnaround time between events, have more varied hospitality suites and better seating, he added.


The yet unnamed indoor venue, “future-proofed” to serve Singapore’s foreseeable longer-term interests, will be located next to the indoor stadium, which will continue its operations until the new arena can start running. 


It remains to be seen whether the Government will decide to demolish or repurpose the existing stadium as studies are ongoing and more details on the plans would be provided in time.


For now, gather round — maybe with your parents who were teenagers in those days — as TODAY walks through some trivia of interest about the Singapore Indoor Stadium.



The Singapore Indoor Stadium was conceived and designed as the successor to the Geylang Indoor Stadium, popularly known as Gay World Stadium.


Gay World had been the main indoor facility for Singapore’s sporting and entertainment events since it opened its doors in 1937. It could seat 4,000 to 5,000 people and fit a basketball court.


However, after several decades, it was deemed to be outdated and lacking some provisions.


Looking to invigorate the urban landscape, the Government first proposed plans for a new indoor stadium of international standards in 1971, before works to build the new facility began in late 1987.


The new building was to become part of the Kallang Sports Complex situated along the Kallang River.



Within two short years, construction of the Singapore Indoor Stadium was completed two months ahead of schedule in November 1989.


A combined total of S$90 million were spent building it, funded by betting operator Singapore Pools and horse-racing operator Singapore Turf Club.


The cost of the stadium itself totalled S$68.08 million, with another S$22.09 million spent on the outdoor car park, landscaping and other supporting infrastructure.


It has the space indoors for two basketball courts or 12 badminton courts or four tennis courts.


Singapore's founding prime minister Lee Kuan Yew officially declared the stadium open in December 1989.


In 1991, ticketing system Sistic was launched at a cost of S$1.3 million, with its head office housed on the stadium's premises.


The Singapore Sports Council, which ran the indoor stadium at the time, said that before the venue opened its doors at the end of 1989, bookings for events were made up until 1994.



The Singapore Indoor Stadium is 47 metres tall at its highest point, making it one of the tallest single-storey buildings in Asia when it was built. 


During construction, it took about a week and numerous hydraulic jacks to hoist the stainless steel roof and set it into place.


With a total area of 54,178 sqm, its seating capacity ranges from 4,000 to 12,000, depending on the position and size of the stage required.


Jumbo screens that measured almost 4m by 3m hung from the ceiling at four sides, affording audiences close-up views of what happens on stage.


It also has 12 hospitality suites for companies to book to entertain their clients.



Japanese architect Kenzo Tange was awarded the Pritzker Architecture Prize — the industry’s highest honour for any living architect — in 1987, two years after he was commissioned to design the stadium.


The stadium’s design was rooted in regional traditions, featuring an oriental roof similar to that of Chinese and Japanese temples.


The architect described the stadium as the “perfect foil against the Central Business District skyline” here.



Singapore's chapter of Docomomo, a non-profit group dedicated to the documentation and conservation of modern built heritage, said that the decision to have Mr Tange design the proposed stadium led to an outcry from the architectural community here.


It came at a time when architects in Singapore were struggling during the 1985 economic recession where not many private-sector jobs were available. It prompted claims that “equally talented” Singaporean architects had been sidelined for large projects.


The Singapore Sports Council and then Minister for Community Development S Dhanabalan defended the Government’s choice, explaining that it was logical to appoint Mr Tange because he had already done preliminary work on the stadium.



Having an air-conditioned stadium, the first of its kind here, was not a trifle thing given Singapore's hot and humid weather. 


For spectators, it was a truly welcomed change.


Sports fans, for example, no longer had to perspire profusely while watching badminton matches at the Singapore Badminton Hall on Guillemard Road.


Badminton players were reportedly invited to the stadium to test whether the aircon draft would affect the trajectories of the shuttlecocks.


The Singapore Indoor Stadium was the grounds for the inaugural Konica Cup badminton championships after it opened.


Before that, in December 1989, the Basketball Association of Singapore was the first to use the stadium for the Merlion Cup basketball finals.


The venue continued to play host to major sporting events across the board that included the Heineken Open for tennis and the Women's Tennis Association Championships, the World Netball Championships and mixed martial arts’ One championship.


In 2022, The International, which is the biggest Dota 2 e-sports tournament globally, was held at the stadium.



There were no lack of big names to entertain concert-goers, as many international and regional acts made their way in and out of the Singapore Indoor Stadium's doors.


They included Grammy Award winners such as singers Katy Perry, Janet Jackson, Whitney Houston, Elton John, David Bowie, Sting, Tina Turner, Bob Dylan, Bryan Adams and Bruno Mars, guitarists Eric Clapton and Carlos Santana, well as rapper Kanye West and Italian operatic tenor Luciano Pavarotti. 


Pop groups and rock bands such as The Pussycat Dolls, The Rolling Stones, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Pearl Jam, Metallica, Maroon 5 and The Black Eyed Peas have pounded the stage at the venue, with Asian acts Big Bang, Kitaro and Jay Chou having also chosen the stadium for their concerts.
With the 1980s and 1990s being the heyday for Cantopop acts, the stadium was the go-to venue for Hong Kong's four "Heavenly Kings" Andy Lau, Aaron Kwok, Leon Lai and Jacky Cheung — its open-sided centre-stage allowing them full play with their bands, dancers and back-up singers, as well as their parade of costumes and pyrotechnic displays.

Last year, Cheung set a record for selling out 11 shows at the indoor stadium — the most by an artiste in a single leg of a concert tour in Singapore.


Other well-known Cantopop artistes of the time such as Faye Wong, Sandy Lam, Emil (now Wakin) Chau, as well as veterans Sam Hui and Alan Tam have performed at the stadium as well.


Singaporean Mandopop singers Kit Chan and JJ Lin have played at home to sellout crowds there.


Live entertainment catered for families included Disney On Ice, Cirque Du Soleil and even the Moscow Circus. 



Fans of futsal — football being played five-a-side on a hard court instead of a field — will likely recall the exciting Tiger 5s games held at the Singapore Indoor Stadium when the sport was still relatively new here.


The tournaments drew the likes of world champions Brazil and top nations Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.


Other Asian countries that took part included Malaysia and South Korea.


Singapore hosted the Tiger 5s three times in 1997, 1999 and 2001. 


The Football Association of Singapore was gunning for the series — sponsored by brewery brand Tiger Beer — to rival the Futsal World Cup in prestige.

Former national football players such as Rudy Khairon memorably scored a goal against Italy — the only one from Asia in the 1999 edition — though the final scoreline was Italy thrashing Singapore 7-1. 


Brazil went on to lift the trophy in the 1999 final after beating Italy 3-2.


Other national football players Nahar Daud, Noor Ali, Steven Tan and Yazid Yasin have also played at the Tiger 5s.



Notably, in 2009, the inaugural Asian Youth Games was officially opened by Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong at the indoor stadium.


Three Singapore athletes — swimmer Tao Li, shooter Jasmine Ser and bowler Remy Ong who had represented Singapore at regional and international levels — were the torch-bearers that year.


The event was part of the country's bid for the 2010 Summer Youth Olympics.


In August 2010, the first-ever Youth Olympic Games was held here after Singapore won the bid to host. The indoor stadium was one of several sports venues for the competing athletes. 



The 42nd president of the United States (1993 to 2001) stood in front of an audience in a nation where people were drilled to be achievers, to further inspire them to be an achiever and to tell them what success means.


No longer the head of state at the time, Mr Bill Clinton stepped into the Singapore Indoor Stadium as one of the speakers at the 2002 National Achievers Congress.


A natural charmer, he had plenty of nice things to say about "remarkable" Singapore and some people paid several thousand dollars to have lunch with him at the stadium's hospitality suites.


The event organiser had reportedly paid US$300,00 (close to S$550,000 at the time) to bring him here. 



Singapore tried to find its spot on the international music radar in the early 2000s, and the Singapore Indoor Stadium was witness to that as the red carpets were rolled out for the MTV Asia Awards.


MTV was the hip American cable music channel of the day then.


From 2002 for at least three years, Singapore played host to the awards show that was dubbed the Asian version of the MTV Europe Awards and the likes.


About 7,000 to 8,000 people each year were at the stadium for the awards show that was telecast to audiences around Asia, with edited versions shown in Europe and North and South America.


Some of the red-carpet walkers at the indoor stadium in those years? Mariah Carey, Linkin Park, Robbie Williams, Westlife, The Pussycat Dolls, Aishwarya Rai, Zhang Ziyi, A-Mei, Jay Chou, Michelle Yeoh, Siti Nurhalizah and Stephanie Sun.


Loh, R. (2024, March 8). Memories made at Singapore Indoor Stadium: MTV awards, Bill Clinton, Tiger 5s futsal tournaments, pop concerts. TODAY.

Back to blog

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.