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Marina Bay new year countdown: Some S'poreans eager to join celebrations after 2-year absence, not fazed by expected large crowds

Singapore — With the return of the fireworks display at Marina Bay for this year's New Year's Eve countdown celebration after a two-year absence, some Singaporeans cannot wait to be part of an expected 500,000-strong crowd.  

Fireworks at the New Year's Eve countdown around Marina Bay in 2019.

Fireworks at the New Year's Eve countdown around Marina Bay in 2019.

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  • As many as 500,000 people are expected to be at the Marina Bay area for this year's New Year's Eve countdown celebration
  • The event, which culminates in a seven-minute fireworks display, is returning for the first time since 2019
  • Undeterred by the potentially huge crowds, some Singaporeans are still determined to head down to the area
  • Authorities have said that public safety is a priority and have announced various crowd control measures

Singapore — With the return of the fireworks display at Marina Bay for this year's New Year's Eve countdown celebration after a two-year absence, some Singaporeans cannot wait to be part of an expected 500,000-strong crowd.  

Miss Syaqila Suzaini, a 23-year-old student, said: “It’s a family tradition to watch fireworks (at Marina Bay) every new year.” 

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, her family of six had always gathered at the Marina Bay area to watch the fireworks on New Year's Eve for as long as she could remember.

So after missing out on this for two years due to infection control measures for Covid-19, she and her family are excited that it is making a comeback.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), which organises the Marina Bay Singapore Countdown 2023, said that a turnout of 500,000 is expected this year, similar to the crowd size before 2020. 

Yet, the expected large crowds will not put off some Singaporeans such as Mr Alvin Ng from joining the merrymaking.

“The crowds can be annoying, but it's not a big deal (to me), so it doesn’t really affect my decision to go (and catch the fireworks at Marina Bay),” the 19-year-old full-time national serviceman said.

“I (was) at the Marina Bay area with a couple of friends back in 2019 and the experience was better than expected, so I'm looking forward to it (again) this year,” he added.

Similarly, Miss Suzaini said that she is not worried about the crowd because her family usually gather at a viewing area in front of the Esplanade, where “there is usually good crowd control”.

There are some Singaporeans, though, who think that it is not worth the hassle jostling with the crowd to ring in the new year.

Ride-hailing driver Mark Goh, 55, said that he planned to do the countdown at his brother's home with his family.

“If crowds (at Marina Bay) were smaller, maybe I would consider going,” he said.

Ms Cabael Kyleen Friel Santos, a 20-year-old Singapore Polytechnic student, said that she would be spending New Year’s Eve at home, as she usually does.

“I don't really like to go to crowded places. I feel like it's hard to enjoy when it's so stuffy”.


URA said last week that "public safety remains a priority" for the countdown to 2023, which will culminate in a seven-minute-long fireworks display.

To prevent overcrowding, the number of people entering and leaving key areas around Marina Bay and in surrounding districts will be regulated.

"Certain exits of MRT stations in the Marina Bay area may be closed and the crowd will be diverted to other areas," it added. 

To manage and control the crowd, the police will be deploying more than 700 officers in the area, which is similar to the number deployed in 2019. 

This year, the police will be using more resources such as surveillance drones and enhanced Mobicams that can “broadcast both audio and visual messages to issue advisories to the public” as well as a live map that allows users to view real-time crowd levels via their electronic devices.

Dr Sheryl Chua, a lecturer with the Public Safety and Security Programme at the Singapore University of Social Sciences (SUSS), said that the use of crowd management technologies would help the police in "sense-making and deployment decisions based on the crowd distribution, crowd movement and even unexpected human motions”.

She added that information on evacuation and response plans, as well as lost-and-found counters and first-aid stations should be broadcasted and made available online to prevent creating a bottleneck situation at entry or exit points where information seekers may block the movement of other visitors.

She also said that it is not just the responsibility of the authorities but also that of the public to ensure that the event is safe for all.

"Be aware of the environment, be equipped with the knowledge on how we improve our chances of survival if we find ourselves in a situation such as a crowd crush, and remain vigilant and look out for any suspicious behaviours that could be connected to terrorism."

Agreeing, Associate Professor Razwana Begum, head of the Public Safety and Security Programme at SUSS, said: "For crowd control mechanisms to be effective, it requires both the ‘enforcer’ and the ‘crowd’ to cooperate and work together."  

Mr Toby Koh, group managing director of Ademco Security Group, highlighted the importance of the public understanding what is going on so that they may adapt accordingly.

“Crowd control is about communication… a lot of crowd crush cases including the one at Itaewon is caused by people having no idea what was happening,” he said, referring to the incident in Seoul, South Korea, where more than 150 people died while celebrating Halloween in October.

And beyond efficient communication, the deployment of security personnel also plays an important part since they will be the ones who ensure that "choke points", where a lot of people will be, are not overly congested, Mr Koh said.

Dr Chua of SUSS said that a stationary crowd looking at the fireworks may pose less of a public risk than a large movement of crowds, "especially before and after the event, which may create safety risks such as crowd surge, crowd crush, or collapse".

The police have said that the post-event crowd dispersal is likely to be slow due to the large crowds. They added that:

  • There will be designated routes out of Marina Bay, including the area closures, to facilitate safe and orderly dispersal
  • Signages will be put up to guide people on the route to be taken for dispersal
  • Crowd flow into MRT train stations will also be regulated to prevent overcrowding within the stations

"Members of the public are advised to be patient and cooperate with security personnel," the police said.

They have advised revellers going for the countdown event to check the live map via the online site Crowd@MarinaBay, which also shows area closures, as well as features such as alternate walking paths.

Related topics

countdown crowd crush New Year's Eve Marina Bay

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