The Future Site

A Background of the Time Capsule

On 23 February 1970, as work commenced on what would be the future site of Singapore’s National Stadium, a time capsule containing newspaper articles, books, specimen coins, bank notes and sports memorabilia was carried by a team of runners relay-style from Empress Place to the National Stadium construction site. The last runner, former high-jump champion Mr Nor Azahar Hamid, presented the cylinder copper capsule about the size of a briefcase to the-then Minister of Finance Dr Goh Keng Swee, who buried it with the foundation stone.

Like most time capsules, the plan was for it to be dug up years later and its items exhibited, however this never came to be, as the capsule mysteriously vanished without a trace.

As the National Stadium closed in 2007 and work began to replace it with what is now the Singapore Sports Hub, an urgent need to locate the capsule arose. Various searches were conducted by various construction teams, a demolitions company and recovery parties.

However, despite extensive search efforts made by these groups and a $50,000 reward offered for the discovery of the capsule, it was never found…

Photographs and Documents

While there was the photograph of Dr Goh holding the capsule before its burial and also supposedly a plaque put up near the spot where the capsule was buried, no one could remember where it was located. This problem was further exacerbated by the fact that there were little to no landmarks since the capsule was laid in the piling stage of construction. To further compound the problem, attempts to search through archived records were hampered by inaccurate documents. As far as the authorities and contractors were concerned, the only conclusive lead was that it was somewhere underground as the capsule was placed together with the stadium’s foundation stone.

The contracted teams started methodically searching at spots where the capsule was likely to have been buried, bringing in metal detectors and at one point even discussed bringing in X-ray machines to aid in the search, but all these turned up nothing.

Participants’ Memories and Theories

With records and photographs failing to bring up any leads, attention soon turned to those who personally witnessed the late Dr Goh putting it into the ground. Two people who were part of the relay team were sprinting legend Mr C Kunalan and Mr Noor Azhar Hamid.

According to Mr Kunalan, he described the land as being ‘very barren and piling works had only just begun’ and he suspects the capsule might have been been buried just in front of the staircase leading up to the grandstand tribune, where there used to be a fountain, however the aforementioned fountain was removed in the late 1970s. He also believes the capsule might have been removed then too.

As the last runner in the relay who handed over the capsule to Dr Goh, Mr Noor Azahar was asked to recall where he made his final sprint and hand-over of the capsule, in hopes that this could help to renew search efforts, however, try as he might, he was unable to recall this crucial detail.

“I was the last athlete and I personally handed the capsule to Dr Goh to bury it. But no matter how hard I try, I can’t remember where it went.”

The Search Goes Cold

With all leads going to a dead end, local officials conceded defeat and acknowledged the loss of the capsule, and with it, a piece of Singapore’s history vanished into the night.

While steps were taken for its successor time capsule to avoid falling victim to a similar mishap (the Aspiration time capsule due to be opened in 2040 is now sealed and displayed above ground), the following questions remain…

  • Where is the original time capsule which was buried in the National Stadium? Could it have miraculously survived the demolition & construction work and still be buried in the ground? Or was it unearthed at some point in time?
  • If so, what happened to the contents within?

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