Swimming in the Summer Sun of Singapore

Most of the time, it is either rain or shine in Singapore. Swimming has always been a popular activity for Singaporeans, especially in the hot summer days between March and July, when temperatures sometimes hit as high as 35 degree Celsius.

Here we look at the list of swimming facilities in Singapore since the early 20th century.

The First Public Swimming Pool

The Thirties

The Mount Emily Swimming Complex was the first public pool in Singapore when it was opened in January 1931 by the President of the Municipal Commissioners R.J. Farrer (1873-1956)(See Farrer Park Swimming Complex below). It was converted from an old municipal reservoir built in the 1880s that provided fresh water to the town as well as the Kandang Kerbau (KK) Hospital.

mount emily swimming complex 1960s

Situated at Upper Wilkie Road, the Mount Emily Swimming Complex, consisting of a large pool 50m long and 12m wide and a maximum depth of 2.3m, was extremely popular in the 1930s, serving almost 8,000 swimming enthusiasts per month. It used water supply from the second municipal reservoir nearby, which in turned used the recycled water for town cleansing and drain flushing.

The swimming pool was occupied by the Japanese during the Second World War, who converted the pool into a seawater type. After the war, the public was still unable to access the pool as it was reserved solely for the British servicemen. In 1946, the Municipality took over and switched the pool back to the fresh water one, and upgraded it with full filtration and chlorination system. After three years of repair and a cost of $36,000, it was finally opened to a delighted public.

mount emily swimming complex 1947

Other Early Swimming Pools

The Forties

haw-par-swimming-pool-1940sThe Haw-Par Swimming Pool, also known as Pasir Panjang Swimming Pool, was built in the late 1930s and officially opened in October 1940 by the Chinese Consul-General Kao Ling-Pai. Costing $50,000 in construction, the pool was considered a modern facility during that era. It had an electric pump to empty and refill the 36.6m by 12.2m pool within a few hours, thus allowing the pool to be fully utilised every day of the year.

The premises of the swimming pool included accommodation for the swimmers, shower baths and changing rooms, and a restaurant and bar to satisfy the visitors’ appetites after their swim. The admission charge to the swimming pool was 10c in its initial years of operation.

Built just before the Second World War at Deptford Road, the Sembawang Swimming Complex was used to serve the British, Australian and New Zealand servicemen and their families. It was later opened to the public but attendance declined sharply in the late eighties, even after its swimming facilities were upgraded in 1984. In 1990, the swimming complex with its other sports facilities were returned to the Singapore Land Authority (formerly Land Office), which in turn, leased it to the US Marines.

The Fifties

The Yan Kit Swimming Complex was the second swimming facility in Singapore opened to the public. Opened in December 1952, it was situated at Yan Kit Road at Tanjong Pagar, where its name was attributed to Look Yan Kit (1849-1931). A Cantonese dentist who first plied his trade in Hong Kong, Look Yan Kit later came to Singapore in 1877 and became a wealthy rubber plantation owner. He was also one of the founding fathers of Kwong Wai Shiu Hospital built in 1910.

yan kit swimming complex

The site where Yan Kit Swimming Complex stood was formerly a stretch of the old railway line. It was a densely populated area, in which the swimming pool was surrounded by attap houses between the fifties and seventies. Yan Kit Swimming Complex had witnessed tremendous changes in its surrounding environment in its fifty-odd years’ history. The kampongs were replaced by flats and commercial buildings, while the swimming pool itself was shut down and abandoned after 2001.

yan kit swimming complex 1960s

yan kit swimming complex2

The plans to give this aging swimming complex a new lease of life never materialised, as it would cost an estimated $4 million to upgrade the facilities and a further $400,000 for annual maintenance. In 2012, with no alternative plans from both the Singapore Sports Council and the private developers, Yan Kit Swimming Complex was demolished. The empty pools were filled up with concrete, while one of its buildings was preserved.

yan kit swimming complex3

The Farrer Park Swimming Complex was built in 1957 by the Singapore City Council, a year after the completion of Farrer Park Athletic Centre (FPAC), which was the main training ground for the Singapore national track and field between the fifties and the seventies. Designed by British architect M.E. Crocker, the swimming complex produced one of Singapore’s swimming legends in Ang Peng Siong (see below). For many years, Farrer Park Swimming Complex was supervised by Ang Peng Siong’s father Ang Teck Bee, also an Olympian who had participated in judo in the 1964 Olympics Games.

farrer park swimming complex

Farrer Park was named after R.J. Farrer (1873-1956), the former President of the Municipal Commissioners. Farrer had came to Singapore in 1896 at an age of 24, and had held several important posts in other parts of Malaya such as Penang, Kelantan and Ipoh. During his tenure in Singapore, Farrer was in charge of many major projects, such as City Hall, Gunong Pulai waterworks, St. James Power Station and Elgin Bridge. He passed away in his home at St. John Islands in 1956 and was buried at Bidadari Cemetery.

Farrer Park Swimming Complex was shut down in June 2003 after low public utilisation. After its closure, the Singapore Sports Council put the premises up for lease for the private operators.

river valley swimming complex 1960s

Due to few sports facilities opened to the public in the fifties, the Singapore City Council decided to building a swimming pool at the former King George V’s Park. It was designed by Crocker, also the designer of Farrer Park Swimming Complex, and was named River Valley Swimming Complex. Officially opened in August 1959, the swimming complex had an Olympic-sized pool and a wading pool, constructed at a cost of $520,000.

river valley swimming complex 1961After the independence of Singapore, the National Sports Promotion Board and the Singapore Sports Council took over the swimming complex in 1971 and 1973 respectively. As more swimming facilities were built in the new towns in other parts of Singapore, River Valley Swimming Complex went into a decline. Its non-favourable location among commercial buildings and shopping malls meant that few residents would travel far to visit the pools. It was finally shut down in April 2003.

Swimming Pools in the Heartlands

When the Housing and Development Board (HDB) embarked on their projects of public housing estates in the seventies and eighties, swimming facilities, along with other public amenities such as libraries, hawker centres, wet markets and playgrounds, were constructed together with the flats to provide a pleasant and modern living environment for the people.

The Seventies

Almost each new town has its own swimming facilities. Opened in January 1970, the Queenstown Swimming Complex was the first public pool built in a housing estate in Singapore. Designed with a 4m-deep diving pool as well as an Olympic-sized competition pool, Queenstown Swimming Complex was the training ground of the famous water polo team in the seventies.

queenstown swimming complex 1970s

In 1971, legendary water polo coach Kenneth Kee gathered a group of neighbourhood boys, some of whom could not even swim. Under his strict disciplinary guidance and training regime, the boys emerged as some of Asia’s best water polo players. By the mid-seventies, many Queenstown water polo players represented Singapore in the national team and won many gold medals in the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.

toa payoh swimming complex 1973

Soon, other swimming complexes also found their ways into other new towns of Singapore. The next to follow was Toa Payoh Swimming Complex, opened in September 1973. In 1978, the National Survival Swimming Award Scheme was introduced to raise Singaporeans’ proficiency in water survival skills, and students were encouraged to take up swimming lessons as their extra-curriculum activities.

The national mass swim was held at Toa Payoh Swimming Complex in 1978, attracting an impressive 3,561 participants. Singapore was the host of the 12th SEA Games held in 1983, and Toa Payoh Swimming Complex was chosen as the venue of the Games’ swimming events.

southeast asian games at toa payoh swimming complex 1983

katong swimming complex

Opened in September 1975, Katong Swimming Complex is located along Mountbatten Road and serves the residents at Tanjong Katong and Dakota for more than thirty years. The aging swimming complex has a unique feature; there is a row of animal structures, in shapes of fish, duck and seal, spouting water into the pool.

buona vista swimming complex 1976The Buona Vista Swimming Complex at Holland Drive was opened in September 1976. Also known fondly as the Holland Drive Swimming Complex, it was then considered a modern facility fitted with bi-flow filter system in which the water was continuously drained off the surface and floor of the pool.

Geylang East Swimming Complex was opened in August 1978 at Aljunied Avenue 2. It was closed for several months in 2004 in a massive upgrading project, in which a children waterplay station was added.

Opened in November 1979 and August 1982 respectively, both Delta Swimming Complex and Bukit Merah Swimming Complex shared the responsibility of serving the vast residential region of Redhill, Hendersen, Tiong Bahru and Telok Blangah.

The decision of building the Delta Swimming Complex near Hendersen Road in 1978 caused a massive uproar as HDB planned the swimming complex at the site where an old Buddhist temple stood. Built in 1858, the temple, known as Tang Suahn Kiong San Soh Hoo Chu Buddhist Temple or Kuan Kong Temple, had a rich 120-year history and was extremely popular with its devotees.

delta swimming complex 1995

The site acquisition notice was served to the temple in 1973, with a compensation amount of $184,000, but the trustees of the temple and its devotees felt that the sacred building should be preserved. In September 1978, three bulldozers were ordered to block the paths leading to the temple, leading to its isolation and much to the disgust of the public. Policemen were deployed as the bulldozers forced their way in. Eventually, the temple caretakers had to pack the place up and relocate.

The Eighties

bukit merah swimming complex 1982

The larger Bukit Merah Swimming Complex, located beside the Bukit Merah Bus Interchange and occupies a large 21,000 square metres site, consists of three pools and buildings with dome-shaped roofs.

bedok swimming complex 1980s

At the start of the eighties, more public swimming facilities were built for the convenience of the residents living in the new housing estates. In a space of three years, six swimming complexes were constructed at some of the biggest upcoming new towns of Singapore, namely the Paya Lebar Swimming Complex (opened in September 1981), Bedok Swimming Complex (December 1981), Kallang Basin Swimming Complex (March 1982), Ang Mo Kio Swimming Complex (May 1982), Bukit Merah Swimming Complex (August 1982) and Clementi Swimming Complex (August 1983).

kallang basin swimming complex

kallang basin swimming complex2

Unlike many other swimming complexes, the Paya Lebar Swimming Complex was built by the Urban Renewal Authority for the Singapore Sports Council. It was officially opened in September 1981 by then MP for Paya Lebar Sia Kah Hui. Standing along the quiet Aroozoo Road at Upper Serangoon Road, the swimming facilities had less than average number of attendance. It also received negative feedback due to its cleanliness and security. Paya Lebar Swimming Complex was eventually shut down in the 2000s and put up for lease by the Singapore Land Authority (SLA). The premises is now being used as a childcare center.

ang mo kio swimming complex2

The design of the distinctive triangular roofs of the red-bricked Ang Mo Kio Swimming Complex, located along Ang Mo Kio Avenue 1, had helped it won the Singapore Institute of Architects’ Architectural Design Award in 1986.

clementi swimming complex 1983

The Clementi Swimming Complex at Clementi Avenue 2 has three swimming pools; two rectangular and one palm-shaped pool. The swimming complex, surrounded by lush greenery, is designed in such a way that its three buildings stand parallel to each other in the southwestern direction.

clementi swimming complex2 1983

As more new housing estates were being developed in the late eighties, HDB continued their plan of building swimming facilities in each of the new town centres. The addition of Yio Chu Kang Swimming Complex (opened in July 1986), Hougang Swimming Complex (May 1987), Yishun Swimming Complex (March 1988), Bukit Batok Swimming Complex (April 1988), Woodlands Swimming Complex (August 1989) and Tampines Swimming Complex (December 1989) had brought a total of 11 swimming complexes constructed in a single decade.

The Nineties

In the nineties, only Bishan Swimming Complex (opened in December 1991) and Serangoon Swimming Complex (March 1995) were built. This might be due to the property boom in Singapore in which dozens of condominiums with private swimming facilities mushroomed in many residential parts of Singapore. The property boom first began in the early nineties and reached its peak by 1996, before the bubble was ultimately burst by the Asian financial crisis in 1997.

The New Millennium

Jurong East Swimming Complex (opened in March 2000) became the first public swimming complex to be completed in the new millennium. It was then followed by Choa Chu Kang Swimming Complex (May 2001), Jalan Besar Swimming Complex (June 2003), Jurong West Swimming Complex (November 2006) and Sengkang Swimming Complex (August 2008). The latest is Pasir Ris Swimming Complex (July 2011), bringing the total of public swimming complexes managed by the Singapore Sports Council to 25.

Other Swimming Complexes

There was a swimming facility along Corporation Road in the early seventies known as Jurong Town Swimming Pool. It was managed by the Jurong Town Corporation (JTC), which was responsible in building flats and amenities for its residents working at the developing Jurong industrial area. Also opened to the public for an admission charge of 40c, the swimming pool was renovated and repaired several times until it eventually shut down in the late eighties.

nanyang university swimming complex 1976

The former Nanyang University became the first tertiary institution in Singapore to have a complete sport complex when its $4.2 million facilities, including an Olympic-sized swimming pool and a 13.5m-deep diving pool, were completed in 1976. In the same year, the Raffles Institution had their own swimming complex officially opened by then Minister for Law & The Environment E.W. Barker.

The Swimming Clubs

Established in 1894, the Singapore Swimming Club was the first swimming club in Singapore. Originally known as the Swimming Club Singapore, it was formed by a group of young European men who had their occasional gatherings at the beach of Tanjong Rhu. An perfect location for swims, sandwiches and tea, the Europeans mooted the idea of having a permanent recreational facility built.

singapore swimming club 1940

In 1893, the club was formed at an attap house rented from a Malay fisherman. A year later, a nearby bungalow was rented to serve as the clubhouse of about 20 members. Accessibility to the new swimming club was not easy as members had to travel via a sampan from Johnston’s Pier. The Swimming Club Singapore was officially opened in February 1894.

Membership of the club grew steadily, with its membership fee remained at $1 per month over the years. By 1900, there were more than 100 members. In 1931, the club changed its name to Singapore Swimming Club and added a pool to its club facilities. It was a sensational headline in the newspapers of Malaya and Singapore, and membership soon ballooned to 2,000. The prosperity and popularity of the club was, however, disrupted by the Second World War. It never really managed to recover since then, due to the instability of the society and the imminent withdrawal of the British soldiers and their families.

singapore swimming club2 1940

The club first accepted female members in the early 1920s, but it would remain a “white only” club for another 40 years until the independence of Singapore, when former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew ordered all British clubs in Singapore to discontinue their discriminative rules. All races were welcomed to join the club since 1963.

While the Europeans had their Singapore Swimming Club, the local Chinese enjoyed swimming at the Chinese Swimming Club, formed in 1909. First started as a weekly event during Sundays to swim and play water polo at the Tanjong Katong beach, the six local Peranakan baba (Straits Chinese) decided to form a club when other participants joined the water games.

chinese swimming club 1974

Their clubhouse was first established at Chapel Road, before moving permanently to the current site of Amber Road. In 1939, a new three-storey clubhouse and a 25m concrete seawater-filled swimming pool were built. However, the club met its worst moment during the Second World War when it was occupied by the Japanese forces. The Kempeitai (Japanese Military Police) used the clubhouse as an interrogation building and the platform of the swimming pool as a massacre site of the Chinese.

After the war, the clubhouse was in a derelict state. The turning point of the club was in 1947, when the offering of a life-time membership at $100 helped to attract more than 600 members. With enough funds raised, the club was able to build an Olympic-sized pool in 1951. Today, the Chinese Swimming Club has over 7,000 members and possesses a $27.4-million Sports Complex, completed in 2005.

Other early swimming clubs included the Tiger Swimming Club, Cantonese Swimming Union and the Oversea Chinese Swimming Club, which forms the Singapore Amateur Swimming Association (SASA) in 1939 together with the Singapore Swimming Club, Chinese Swimming Club and YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association). SASA was renamed as the Singapore Swimming Association (SSA) in 2002.

The Lagoons

The Katong Park Bathing Pagar became one of the locals’ favourite place of leisure when it was opened in December 1931 by W. Bartley, the President of the Municipal Commissioners. The 45m by 30m swimming area was Singapore’s first public swimming enclosure. Its facilities included 40 dressing rooms and a raised platform that extended into the sea. It was a common sight to see kids swimming in their floats, while others enjoyed tanning in the sun.

Another Katong landmark situated near to the bathing pagar was the old Seaview Hotel, built in the mid-1930s. Both the pagar and the hotel were demolished in the sixties due to the land reclamation.

katong park bathing pagar 1950s

Sentosa Swimming Lagoon was opened in August 1974 as part of the promotion efforts by the Sentosa Development Corporation, established since 1972 for the recreational development of the island.

In the mid-seventies, the Sentosa Development Corporation cooperated with the Port of Singapore Authority (PSA) to develop Kusu Island and Pulau Hantu. Swimming lagoons, jetties and hawker centres were built. However, the plans to turn the islands into holiday resorts did not really went on well. Instead, Kusu Island remains better known as a religious pilgrimage for the devotees, while Pulau Hantu becomes a popular venue for nature lovers.

east coast park lagoon 1980

Constructed at a cost of $4 million, the East Coast Lagoon was opened in April 1976 to the delight of the Marine Parade residents. Formed using a barrier that separated the sea, the oval-shaped lagoon, equivalent to almost 40 Olympic-sized swimming pools, was able to accommodate as many as 6,000 swimmers at any time. The popularity of the lagoon declines in recent years, but the East Coast Lagoon Food Village, situated beside the lagoon, remains as one of the most popular hawker centres in Singapore. The lagoon is currently being used as a ski park.

The Water-Theme Parks

The Big Splash was probably the best known water-theme park in Singapore. Occupying a 2.8 hectare site at East Coast Park, the privately owned recreational centre was opened in 1976 at a cost of $6 million. Its iconic colourful 85m-long waterslides with five lanes of different heights soon became the unmistakable landmark of East Coast.

big splash 1976

After more than two decades of operation, the water-theme park was shut down by the mid-2000s due to dwindling attendance and rising cost. In 2008, Big Splash made a comeback, without its already-demolished waterslides. The new Playground @Big Splash was revamped as a lifestyle hub, featuring bars, seafood restaurants and a indoor mini golf course.

big splash early 2000s

While there was Big Splash in the east of Singapore, the western side had Mitsukoshi Garden. Designed with massive waterslides almost equivalent to Big Splash, Mitsukoshi Garden was, however, less well-known as compared to their rival at East Coast. The water-theme park was co-owned by Mitsukoshi Limited, the largest departmental store chain in Japan, Yamakuni Iron Co. Limited and a Singaporean by the name of Akiko Aw.

mitsukoshi garden water slides early 1980s

Located at Japanese Garden Road, Mitsukoshi Garden lasted less than five years. It was completed and opened in April 1979, but was sold to a Japanese restaurant chain West Overseas Co. Private Limited for $4.5 million in June 1983, which spent a further $3 million in the renovation and addition of restaurants, gymnasium and tennis and squash courts. The premises was later known as CN West Leisure Park.

Today, the youngsters are more familiar with the Wild Wild Wet at Downtown East.

Swimming Across the Singapore River

The Singapore River used to be the lifeline of the country, where different communities lived and work by the sides of the river. It was also the playground for the kids, who would jump and swim in the waters, as depicted by local sculptor Chong Fah Cheong’s masterpiece “First Generation”.

bronze - first generation

By the late seventies, the Singapore River, however, had gained a notorious reputation. It was filled with garbage, dead animals, tongkangs and twakows (bumboats). In 1977, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew launched a decade-long campaign (1977-1987) to clean up the Singapore River and the Kallang Basin.

first swim across singapore river 1984Pig and poultry farms near the Kallang Basin were phased out, 5,000 street hawkers along the river were resettled at the markets and hawker centres elsewhere, and 800 bumboats were towed to Pasir Panjang.

By 1984, the water in the Singapore River was clean enough that a mass swim was organised in mid-May. Some 400 brave participants took the plunge for the first ever swim across the Singapore River.

It was a rainy day, but the participants, including former Parliamentary Secretary of Education Ho Kah Leong and former Minister of State (Culture) Fong Sip Chee, completed the memorable feat.

Our Swimming Legends

Perhaps the most famous swimmer in Singapore, Ang Peng Siong‘s (born 1962) illustrious swimming career between 1977 and 1993 included being the world’s fastest 50m freestyle swimmer in 1982, won a total of 20 gold medals in the SEA Games and held national records of 50m free style (unbroken), 100m freestyle and 100m butterfly (both held for more than 30 years).

The three-time “Sportsman of the Year” (1982-1984) also clinched a gold medal in the 100m freestyle swimming competition at the 9th Asian Games in India, and represented Singapore in the Olympic Games held in the United States two years later.

singapore swimming legends

“Golden Girl” Patricia Chan Li Yin (born 1954), also fondly known as Pat Chan, was the dominating female swimmer at the early SEA Games. The two-time Olympian won 8 golds at the 3rd SEA Games at an age of only 11. It was the year 1965, when Singapore had just became independent. The new nation was greatly excited by Pat Chan’s remarkable performance, and the national anthem touched many when it was first played at the medal-awarding ceremony.

Pat Chan went to win 29 more gold medals in the next four SEA Games, and a couple of silver and bronze Asian Games 1966 and 1970, before retiring from swimming in 1973. She was only 19 then.

13 year-old Junie Sng Poh Leng (born 1966) caused a stir at the Asian Games at Bangkok in 1978 when she shocked her Japanese opponents by winning two golds and breaking the records in the 400m and 800m freestyle. Three years later, Junie Sng went on to win seven golds in the SEA Games at Manila.

Pat Chan’s national record of 39 golds stood for 32 years until it was overtaken by another “golden girl” Joscelin Yeo Wei Ling (born 1979). Joscelin Yeo first competed in the SEA Games in 1991, winning two silvers and three bronzes. Two years later, she announced her arrival at the region’s swimming arena with a personal best of nine golds and one silver. In the next four SEA Games, Joscelin Yeo bagged a total of 40 golds, the only SEA GAmes athlete to do so.

Swimming Trivia

the flying fish 1983In 1983, the Singapore Broadcasting Corporation (SBC) produced an eight-episode drama named The Flying Fish (小飞鱼). Dubbed as Singapore’s first idol drama, it catapulted actor Wang Yu Qing to national fame and inspired many youngsters to take up swimming.

A couple of years later, there were three more swimming-related dramas produced (Splash to Victory 绿水英姿 in 1989, The Champion 任我遨游 in 2004 and No Limits 泳闯琴关 2010) but none was as memorable as The Flying Fish.

In December 2010, a 18-year-old recruit serving his Basic Military Training (BMT) at Pulau Tekong tried the unthinkable by attempting to swim towards Singapore mainland. He was picked up by the Police Coast Guard in the waters near Pulau Tekong Kechil.

Published: 10 January 2013

Updated: 27 August 2018

This entry was posted in Historic and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

39 Responses to Swimming in the Summer Sun of Singapore

  1. Ross says:

    @ In December 2010, a 18-year-old recruit serving his Basic Military Training (BMT) at Pulau Tekong tried the unthinkable by attempting to swim towards Singapore mainland. He was picked up by the Police Coast Guard in the waters near Pulau Tekong Kechil.


  2. Guest says:

    Should be Wang Yu Qing not Wang Xiang Qing

  3. Layla says:

    Shouldn’t it be wild wild wet ? Not sure if they changed their name though

    Fantastic piece as usual !

  4. pkisme says:

    i remember seeing one abandoned swimming pool on top of Golden Mile Complex’s carpark.

  5. lemonpepsi says:

    Not forgetting that Outram Secondary School is the only government school with a swimming pool in their campus!

  6. clarion says:

    Hi, I remember a water park called Fantasy Island on Sentosa… Any information?

  7. Like the Katong Park Bathing Pagar, there was also a Fairy Point Bathing Pagar (1938) at the northeastern part of Singapore, built for the British personnel of the RAF Changi

    The kid in the photo was standing on a self-made wooden diving platform!

  8. A matchbox by Mitsukoshi Garden.

    A collectible item now…

  9. Our Busy Life says:

    In the late 70s/early 80s we used to swim at a pool my mom says was called Sandy Swimming Pool? Does that sound at all familiar? All I remember was that it was huge and had a canteen that made wonderful fried rice. I had my 11th birthday party at Big Splash then later we all started going to Mitsukoshi Gardens. Big Splash had what I think may have been the only cotton candy (candy floss) machine around. That’s certainly the only place I remember getting cotton candy, anyway. In the mid-80s there was a place called Wet and Wild. I remember it was on the way to the airport (we accidentally got on the airport express bus once and had to talk the driver into letting us off where he wasn’t supposed to stop) and just right on the road. It had only two slides and you paid for 30 minutes at a time. They had different colored mats that showed when your time was up. There wasn’t much to it but we had a lot of fun just going down the slides over and over.

    • xxy298 says:

      If I remember correctly, Sandy Swimming Pool located where Temasek Club is now sited.
      I remember going there to visit with my mum whose friend operated the canteen!

  10. kyeumri says:

    no information about fantasy island!

  11. Bill Tong says:


    I think you got the swimming pools mixed up with regards to the Kuan Kong temple.
    The 120-year-old temple was located near the KTM railway line along the present-day AYE and made way for the Bukit Merah Swimming Complex and not the Delta Swimming complex.
    (Do note that Delta Swimming Complex is wedged between Tiong Bahru Road and Alexandra Road.)

    You can confirm this by using the National Archives database (type ‘Henderson Road’ in the search field) and view photos whose orientations confirm that the temple was on the corner of Henderson Road and Bukit Merah Central.

    Here’s another useful site which you may also like to consult:

    Loved this great piece on the swimming pools of Singapore.
    I’m soaking in the warm, pleasant memories which these sepia-toned images have evoked.

  12. Tan Kiat Hau says:

    In the 80s to 90s, I trained with the Ayer Rajah Contituency Swim Team at the now-defunct Pandan Garden Swimming Complex. It was small, with one baby pool and one big pool. Year after year, my seniors returned from the Inter-Constituency Swimming Competition as champions, and left us immensely inspired and proud of em. Then-MP Dr Tan Cheng Bock, too, was one of those proud of the achievements and I fondly recall him even hosting receptions for us in commemoration. 30-lap butterfly warm-ups before gruelling sessions .. those memorable 8am Sunday mornings ..

    .. the pool has since disappeared though.

  13. Fitri says:

    I grew up in the 80’s and 90’s in Jurong. Had many wonderful times at CN West as Mitsukoshi Garden was later known as back then. They had a wave pool, children’s pool and even a waterbike pool. So much fun. Only regret was not to try a ‘Superman’ on the taller slide. It was later turned into a fishing and prawning site making full use of the pools but have since been demolished. Really appreciate your thorough research. Now i can show my kids on how it was when i was growing up. Thank you.

  14. kmj says:

    Fantasy Island was opened in 1994, used to go there with my gf. It was at that time the best thing on Sentosa (to us anyway). closed after too many accidents and few people died on the Subarashi slides (i think). Your site is amazing btw. So many amazing memories! Thanks vm!

  15. Buona Vista pool to close this month as part of redevelopment plans

    Channel NewsAsia
    08 Feb 2014

    SINGAPORE: After serving residents for close to four decades, Buona Vista Swimming Pool will shut its doors for the last time later this month. The Singapore Sports Council said the land the pool sits on is needed as part of redevelopment plans in the area.

    The Buona Vista Swimming Pool was opened in September 1976. Its closure is the ninth for public pools since 2001. Others were the pools at Yan Kit, River Valley, Bukit Merah, Farrer Park, Paya Lebar, Jurong Town, Boon Lay and Pandan Gardens.

    Five of these were leased out to various sports organisations, with four still in operation. The five are Paya Lebar, Farrer Park, Bukit Merah, Boon Lay and Jurong Town. Operations at Paya Lebar have ceased. In their place, however, six new pools have been built, and most come with special water features and slides.

    Officials said the shutdowns have not affected the development of competitive swimming.

    Jeffery Leow, president of Singapore Swimming Association, said: “Most of our competitive swimmers come to our clubs and most of our clubs either have their own pools or rent pools from schools or from other organisations. So I would say that at the competitive swimming level, I think the impact would be marginal.”

    But the nostalgia of visits to Buona Vista Swimming Pool will probably remain for many. Long-time resident Pamela Oei, for example, started a petition to save the Buona Vista pool in 2011. While she may not have succeeded, her efforts ultimately became a platform for people to share their memories of the pool.

    Ms Oei said: “A lot of memories are surfacing on the ‘Save Buona Vista Swimming Pool’ Facebook page. It is where I learnt to swim, so that’s why it is very precious to me. I was a little girl when I watched, from my window, as they filled up the pool. It took weeks for the water level to be right, and after that, of course, you have to treat the water and everything… So I remember the birth of Buona Vista Swimming Pool.”

    Going forward, the Singapore Sports Council said Buona Vista residents can use the Queenstown, Clementi and Delta pools. The Singapore Sports Council operates 25 public pools islandwide. The newer pools are integrated with lifestyle and recreational amenities, community facilities, and are conveniently located near transport nodes and town hubs for easy access.

    In the future, should there be sufficient demand, more of such pools could be built as part of the sports facilities master plan under Vision 2030.

  16. Last look at Buona Vista Swimming Complex before it closes for good at end of February 2014

  17. falwasser says:

    Amazing! Lived in Singapore from 1987 until 1989 as a child. Mitsukoshi, wet and wild, the big splash were the big parks.

    As part of the NZ services we used to use the Fernleaf (Sembawang), Plunge pool (Dieppe Barracks) and the country club (? Woodlands). I also swam against other international schools at this big pool (can’t remember where that was though).

  18. Our first ever Olympic Gold!!

    Schooling creates S’pore swimming history by winning gold in 100m butterfly final

    13 Aug 2016

    Joseph Schooling has created Singapore sporting history by winning Singapore’s first ever Olympic gold medal in swimming and sport.

    The 21-year-old clinched the gold medal in the men’s 100m butterfly final in a sensational new Olympic record time of 50.39sec at the Rio Olympics, beating out American great Michael Phelps, South Africa’s Chad le Clos and Hungary’s Laszlo Cseh who all finished joint second in 51.14sec.

    Swimming in Lane 4, Schooling had entered the final – his first at the Olympics – in brilliant form. He was the fastest qualifier in the semi-finals, clocking a new Asian and national record of 50.83sec, which was, until this morning, also the world’s fastest time this year.

    Schooling had also declared his determination to win a gold medal in only his second Olympics, and the way he easily reached the semi-finals and final, suggested that he was the one to beat in the final eight shootout.

    However, it was clear that his opponents, especially Phelps still had some in his tank to take the fight to the young man today.

    The 31-year-old had done just enough to qualify for the final in fifth overall yesterday, and that was just minutes after he had won the 200m individual medley gold, which was his 22nd career Olympic gold, and this morning, it was clear from the snarl on his face as he waited for the race to begin that he was about to go full throttle.

    But Schooling was having nothing of it. And he showed it from the moment he powerfully dived into the pool. The University of Texas sophomore took the lead from the start and never relinquished it. Phelps, Le Clos and Cseh tried their best to clawed their way back in the final stretch but Schooling always kept them half a body length away.

    It was a nerve-wracking final stretch for Singaporeans who were glued to their screens all over the world and screaming their lungs out in a bid to help the young man touch the wall first. And with a final super-human effort, Schooling did, finishing just ahead of Phelps and company.

    In Singapore, Colin Schooling, Joseph’s father, was in tears in the living room of his friend’s house in Jalan Chengam as he watched his son create Singapore sporting history. He was not able to make the trip to Rio because of health reasons, sending May Schooling, Joseph’s mother, there instead.

    In the stands of the Olympic Aquatic Centre, May Schooling was seen on television dancing and rejoining alongside the smattering of Team Singapore officials and supporters.

    Schooling’s feat will go down as Singapore’s greatest sporting feat to date. Prior to this, the highest achievement by a Singaporean at the Olympics remains Tan Howe Liang’s weightlifting silver at the 1960 Rome Olympics and the women’s table tennis team’s silver at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

    But now the former Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) student, who grew up in the swimming pools of Singapore Island Country Club, and made the huge decision of moving to the US in 2009, when he was 13, to train at the Bolles School in Florida, so that he can win an Olympic medal one day, has finally cracked that ceiling, and written his name forever in the annals of Singapore sporting history.


  19. sehsuan says:

    just to point out a massive factual error:

    “Almost each new town has its own swimming facilities. Opened in January 1970, the Queenstown Swimming Complex was the first public pool built in a housing estate in Singapore. Designed with a 25m-deep diving pool as well as an Olympic-sized competition pool, Queenstown Swimming Complex was the training ground of the famous water polo team in the seventies.”

    the diving pool is only 4 meters deep, not 25 meters. just saying as i did learn basic springboard diving there 🙂

  20. James says:

    I have some photos of kallang lido pool dated 1947 would you like them

  21. Kallang Lido Swimming Pool, 1948

    Many thanks to Mr James Smith for the photos

    (Photo credit: James Smith)

  22. Old Police Academy swimming pool: “It was where memories were made and shared”

    06 May 2015
    Home Team News

    Nestled on a hill overlooking the verdant grounds of the Old Police Academy is a quiet oasis that holds a treasure trove of stories from time past.

    The Olympic-sized swimming pool in the academy was where thousands of police officers learnt to swim and celebrated happy occasions such as birthdays.

    “We were classified into different categories based on our swimming capabilities. Some people who were top swimmers would keng (pretend they could not swim), and there were some who really could not swim but were thrown into the pool,” shared Nisar Keshvani, a former recruit at the academy.

    “The pool deck area was a regular venue for us to celebrate our squad mates’ birthdays too,” he recalled fondly.

    The idea to build a pool in the academy was first mooted by Singapore’s late founding Prime Minister Mr Lee Kuan Yew who was there for a musket shoot. He asked if there was a pool in the academy and when the answer was “no”, he immediately instructed for one to be built for training and recreational purposes.

    Former Commissioner of Police (1992-97) Mr Tee Tua Ba was a young officer tasked with briefing Mr Lee on the training curriculum during his visit to the academy.

    He recalled: “We were thoroughly surprised by his generosity. We tried for years to get the swimming pool but we never got it. I think that was a very memorable legacy that I remember for a long time, till this day. He’s one of the men I have the greatest respect for.”

    Construction for the pool began in late 1975 and was open for use in September 1976. It was then considered the most modern swimming pool to be built, featuring a “level deck” recirculatory system with a drainage channel around the pool to collect waves and recirculate the water back into it.

    The pool cost more than $1.8 million to build, and was officially launched on 26 February 1977. In his speech at the official opening of the pool, Mr Lee said it was easy to build a pool but keeping the changing rooms, showers and toilets in good condition required constant maintenance.

    He also pointed out that every Singaporean should be able to swim, and that this skill stays with a person for life.

    For those who had been at the pool, there is an element of nostalgia, said Nisar.

    “From its elevated position, you could have a nice view of the parade grounds where you could oversee the action. Those of us who were assigned to the detention barracks or did not book out over the weekend and were cleaning the pool area could sense the calm and serenity of the place.”

    “The pool was more than a fitness arena, it was where memories were made and shared— an athlete breaking records, a non-swimmer becoming confident in the pool in a matter of weeks, a spot to train for competitions and better oneself, a location to gather and celebrate,” he said.

    Nearly three decades from its opening, the pool has seen dwindling visitors since the Singapore Police Force’s training functions moved to the Home Team Academy in December 2005.

    Demolition of the academy began early this year (2015) to make way for an MRT station. The pool was closed permanently on 1 April 2015.

    On a cool, sleepy afternoon when Home Team News visited the pool, the still surface of the waters was temporarily stirred by a sparrow taking a playful dip.

    Surely, this is a far cry from the bustling activities the pool used to host, but even as the shutters are pulled on this site, the pool will live on in the collective memory of those who once partook of its waters.


  23. Lim ChoonSiong says:

    Thanks for your roadmap introduction of swimming pools. However, I hope to find some information on the pools I used to enjoy but could not find them. They are on the west side, one is named Boon Lay Swimming Pool and the other is named Pandan Garden Swimming Pool, if I am not wrong. Does anyone have their information to share

  24. Crazy says:

    In picture of TPY Swimming complex I can see blk 28 in background did anyone else notice?

  25. myloguewithj says:

    Thanks for putting this interesting post up!

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