Vietnam kicks off 31st SEA Games in spectacular fashion

Performers take part in the opening ceremony of the 31st SEA Games at the My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi, May 12, 2022. — AFP pic
Performers take part in the opening ceremony of the 31st SEA Games at the My Dinh National Stadium in Hanoi, May 12, 2022. — AFP pic

HANOI, May 12 — After numerous challenges and being postponed due to the Covid-19 pandemic, South-east Asia’s largest sporting event — the 31st SEA Games, with the motto “For A Stronger South-east Asia” — was officially opened here tonight.

Hosts Vietnam staged an eye-catching opening ceremony in a blaze of colour, light and fireworks at the My Dinh National Stadium here six days after the first event — football — kicked off.

The May 12-23 biennial sporting extravaganza, which was divided into three parts, namely “Friendly Vietnam”, “Strong South-east Asia” and “Shining South-east Asia”, began with a flag salute and singing of the Vietnamese national anthem.

Immediately after that, spectators were treated to a series of traditional dances showcasing the country’s unique cultural identity, including the Lotus dance and the Dong Ho folk woodcut painting dances, which lasted for about 30 minutes.

Spectators who had thronged the 40,000-capacity stadium then greeted the 11 participating countries with thunderous applause as the athletes and officials marched into the stadium in alphabetical order, starting with Brunei, and Malaysia were the fifth to march in.

Each contingent was limited to 31 people for the march-past so as to adhere to the Covid-19 protocols.

The Malaysian contingent was represented by a delegation of about 30 people, including flag-bearer Nur Dhabitah Sabri, chef de mission (CDM) Datuk Nur Azmi Ahmad and his two deputies, Melvin Chia and Afrita Ariany Nasril.

Diver Nur Dhabitah, for the record, is the winner of the country’s and the Hanoi Games’ first gold medal when she emerged victorious in the women’s one-metre springboard individual event last Sunday (May 8).

The CDM and Nur Dhabitah were proudly clad in traditional Malay costumes, namely as “Pendekar Melayu” (Malay Warrior) and “Puteri” (Malay Princess), which had a colour combination of blue, red, yellow and white that is symbolic of the Jalur Gemilang, as well as complete with the tanjak (headgear) and sanggul lintang.

The other Malaysian athletes and officials wore matching corporate T-shirts with a roaring tiger’s head pattern, symbolising the spirit of perseverance and the fearlessness of the King of the Jungle in hunting its prey.

The Games were officially declared open by Vietnam’s President Nguyen Xuan Phuc Quach, followed by an oath-taking ceremony read by referee Phan Thi Ngoc Linh before Vietnamese sprinter and hurdler Quach Thi Lan was given the honour of lighting the cauldron.

This was followed by a rousing rendition of the Games’ theme song Hay toa sang (Let’s Shine) before fireworks were let off, illuminating the Hanoi night sky.

The SEA Games will serve as a launchpad for the Birmingham Commonwealth Games 2022 in two months’ time and the postponed Hangzhou 2022 Asian Games, before embarking on the Paris 2024 mission to bring home the elusive Olympic gold.

Malaysia have been set a target of 36 golds, 35 silvers and 75 bronzes, which many have deemed to be very low compared to the number of athletes sent to Hanoi, while more than half of the sports contested are Olympic sports.

A total of 526 gold medals from 40 sports will be up for grabs in the 31st edition of the SEA Games to be held in Hanoi and 11 other nearby provinces, with about 10,000 athletes from 11 South-east Asian nations all set to showcase their talents.

The Games were originally scheduled to be held last November but had to be postponed due to the pandemic.

This is the second time that Vietnam is hosting the SEA Games — the 2003 edition was hosted by Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. — Bernama