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The formation of the Singapore Tourism Board, the racial riots, the opening of the MRT system, the McDonald's Hello Kitty frenzy... all these happened in Dragon years. IMAGE: 123RF

Dragon Chronicles: Singapore's Standout Moments In Past Dragon Years

This CNY promises to be a particularly auspicious year, being the Year of the Dragon - more specifically, a Wood Dragon.

If you're unsure what that means, the Chinese zodiac not only has 12 zodiac animals but also 5 elements in its cycles - Wood, Fire, Earth, Metal and Water, in that order.

With this year being the start of a new dragon cycle, we look back at significant and memorable events that took place during the previous 60-year cycle.

1964 (Wood Dragon)

1 January: Singapore Tourism Promotion Board (STPB; now known as the Singapore Tourism Board) is formed to promote Singapore as a destination for visitors. The fledgling STPB would later adopt the Merlion as its new emblem on 24 April 1964.

12 February: Housing and Development Board launches the Home Ownership for the People Scheme, which allowed Singaporeans to buy flats with a lease of 99 years.

21 July: The first of the 1964 racial riots occurs between Malays and Chinese during a celebration of the Prophet Muhammad's birthday, leaving 23 dead and 454 injured.

2 September: The second racial riot occurs between Malays and Chinese after the murder of a Malay trishaw rider. 13 people are killed, and 106 others injured.

1976 (Fire Dragon)

1 April: Singapore Corporation of Rehabilitive Enterprises (SCORE; now known as Yellow Ribbon Singapore) is formed to help ex-offenders find employment and get back on their feet.


June: Construction of Pearl Bank Apartments is completed. At the time, they were Singapore's tallest and densest residential building. Pearl Bank Apartments were eventually demolished in 2020.

1988 (Earth Dragon)

15 January: SingLit author Catherine Lim's short story collection "Or Else, the Lightning God and Other Stories" is selected for use in the 1989 to 1990 cycle of the GCSE O Level examinations. This marks the first time Singapore literature is selected as an examination text on an international level.


12 March: Official opening of the MRT system by then-Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew.


8 August: OUB Centre (present-day One Raffles Place) officially opens. With a height of 280 metres, it was Singapore's tallest building for decades, until the completion of Guoco Tower (290 metres) in 2016.

2000 (Metal Dragon)

1 January to 3 February: McDonald's launches a 40-day Hello Kitty promotion, leading to an unprecedented buying frenzy and several fights.

By the 2nd day of the promotion, a reported 250,000 to 300,000 people were queuing at various outlets. In fact, a glass door shattered at the Boon Keng Road outlet due to the sheer number of people pushing against it at the same time.

More than 100 security personnel were hired by McDonald's over the course of the promotion to maintain order.


10 February: Jurong Island Road Link officially opens. With this road link, Jurong Island is now connected to the rest of mainland Singapore without the need for a ferry service.

Jurong Island itself would later be officially opened on 14 October 2000.

3 June: Snow City officially opens at Science Centre, bringing "winter" to our tropical island.

1 July: BreadTalk opens its first outlet at Parco Bugis Junction (now known as just Bugis Junction).

5 November: Downtown East opens to the public.

2012 (Water Dragon)

14 January: Opening of the Circle Line Extension, adding a new branch of the line past Promenade MRT station that connects to Bayfront MRT station and Marina Bay MRT station.

15 January: Launch of the Community Health Assist Scheme (CHAS) by the Ministry of Health, which helps lower and middle income citizens have access to affordable healthcare.

At the time, Blue and Orange CHAS cards were available depending on household income; the Green CHAS card would only be introduced years later in early 2019.

4 June: Low-cost airline Scoot begins operations.

29 June: Gardens by the Bay opens.

29 August to 9 September: Team Singapore takes part in the 2012 Summer Paralympics. Equestrian rider Laurentia Tan wins a bronze medal on 3 September, followed by a silver medal on 5 September.

6 September: Giant pandas Kai Kai and Jia Jia arrive in Singapore. Their Giant Panda exhibit in the then-unopened River Safari (now known as River Wonders) would later be opened to the public on 29 November 2012.

7 December: Official opening of Resorts World Sentosa.

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