Last Saturday evening, my family and I went for a ride on the "Singapore Flyer", a huge observation wheel and Singapore's latest attraction. We had tickets for the 6pm "flight" (yes, that's how they referred to it on the website), my grand plan being that we might catch the sights at twilight, with lots of nice photo ops of both day and night. Unfortunately we were a bit too early and also it drizzled a bit at the time. So much for my plan ...
The Singapore Flyer structure measures 165m high (the wheel diameter itself is 150m), which is about 42 storeys high and is currently the tallest in the world - 5m taller than The Star of Nanchang and 30m taller than the London Eye. From my reckoning, it will hold this honour for 18 months at most, as a couple of contenders are currently being constructed - in Beijing, Berlin and Las Vegas.
The view from our capsule (one of the 28) as it approached the top was pretty impressive, although I believe in two years' time it will probably be even better when the Integrated Resort-cum-Casino at the Marina is finally complete. The panorama included the Marina Bay, central padang, parliament house, financial district, the Esplanade entertainment hub, exhibition complex, hotel area, all the way to the Indonesian islands on the horizon.
The timing of our Flyer ride was quite fortunate, because we got to witness part of the National Day Parade rehearsals happening down below on the floating platform on Marina Bay. Thousands of people on the grandstand were taking in the sights of marching troops, jets flying past, parachutists, helicopters bearing a huge national flag, human formations spelling out words, cannon salutes ... All in all, it was an elaborate celebration of Singapore's 43 years of nation-building.
As I watched all this from our capsule, it struck me that there were a number of ways in which the operation of the Singapore Flyer reflected that of Singapore the nation:
(1) Visitors to the Flyer experience an extremely well-organised and efficient process within a sparklingly clean environment - very much like the overall administrative structure of Singapore.
(2) One boards a capsule at the bottom of the structure, and rides it to the top, getting an increasingly better view as the capsule moves higher. This reminded me of what has been increasingly referred to as the "Singapore Dream" - that with sufficient hard work and perseverence, any Singapore resident can enhance his or her living standards and rise to the top, regardless of initial station in life.
(3) The view from the top allows one to perceive objects located far away. Such far-sightedness is analogous to the long-term planning and preparation that the Singapore government has a reputation for, enabling them to prepare for possible challenges way in advance.
(4) The cycles of the wheel are reminiscent of the cycles of life - be it in nature, the economy, equity markets, fashions and fads, etc - and which the Singapore population needs the resilience to go through from year to year.
(5) The Flyer is constructed such that the wheel rotates in one plane. I believe engineers refer to this as having only one "degree of freedom". This can be seen to be somewhat limiting. Perhaps a future design might enable the capsules to move more freely, and not just in a circular path. This might represent a limitation in national focus, something that needs to be expanded over time.
Perhaps I'm going too far with this metaphor. Perhaps I should see the Singapore Flyer simply for what it is - a fun ride and a nice family outing.