Southeast Asian Games Open Today

HANOI, Vietnam, December 5. THE impressive opening ceremony of the 22nd SEA Games, the largest sporting event in Southeast Asia, took place today at Hanoi's My Dinh National Stadium with over 40,000 sports fans in attendance.

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Present at the ceremony were General Secretary Nong Duc Manh, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, officials from ministries, national agencies, the diplomatic corps, the leaders of the Southeast Asian Sports Federation and heads of regional sporting delegations.

The ceremony started at 19:00 with the song, "Viet Nam – Our Fatherland". The surprise appearance of parachutists, carrying 11 national flags of the competing Southeast Asian countries, was greeted with thunderous applause from the spectators.

The procession of Viet Nam's flag and the 22nd SEA Games' symbol took place as all the lights in the stadium came on at once. Eleven regional sporting delegations, including 5,005 coaches and athletes, marched past the reviewing stand in an exciting welcome from the officials and spectators.

Viet Nam, with 1,005 members, is the largest sporting delegation at the 22nd SEA Games. Meanwhile, East Timor, the youngest nation in the world, has the smallest membership, only 6 coaches and 16 athletes. Thailand's delegation is comprised of 937 members; Indonesia, 878; the Philippines, 634; Singapore, 439; Malaysia, 470; Myanmar, 424; Laos, 241; Cambodia, 233; and Brunei, 83.

The sacred torch, which symbolises the humanity of the games and desire to compete with burning intensity, was taken from the Ho Chi Minh Museum and passed by Truong Quoc Thang (cyclist), Bui Thi Nhung (runner), Vu Kim Anh (Karatedo artist) and athletes from 10 regional countries to Nguyen Thuy Hien (Wushu artist) who gave it to the Prime Minister who in turn passed it to an athlete dressed like national hero Giong. From this athlete's hand, the official flame was lit at My Dinh National Stadium and will burn throughout the course of the Games.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Minister-Chairman of the Physical Training and Sports Committee Nguyen Danh Thai, who is also the chairman of the Viet Nam National Olympic Committee, president of the 22nd Southeast Asia Sports Council and head of the 22nd SEA Games Organising Board, warmly welcomed Party and State leaders, delegates, domestic and international guests, and 11 sports delegations from Southeast Asian countries to the 22nd SEA Games. "Sports act like ambassadors of solidarity and friendship among regional countries," he stressed, adding "An ASEAN of unity, peace, cooperation and mutual development is the goal of the 22nd SEA Games."

"May athletes and coaches of the 11 sports delegations be solid, healthy and highly successful in terms of sports achievements for the sake of their national pride and advancement of regional sports. I wish you leaders, international sports officials, supervisors and referees health and happiness. I wish our international friends a happy, successful and impressive stay in Viet Nam," Thai said in conclusion.

On behalf of the host country, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai declared the 22nd SEA Games open.

Deputy Prime Minister Pham Gia Khiem, Chairman of the National Steering Board for the 22nd SEA Games, Minister-Chairman Nguyen Danh Thai, and Ha Noi Mayor Hoang Van Nghien presented flowers and banners to 11 participating sports delegations.

On behalf of the referees and athletes, referee Hoang Quoc Vinh and shooter Nguyen Manh Tuong swore an oath of "Solidarity, Honesty and Fair Play".

A laser light show followed suit. More than one thousand artists, dressed in green and sea blue representing the forest and the sea then perform the first part of the performance, called "The Land of the Dragon and Fairy".

The scene, depicted the Vietnamese legend of the country's origins including the father-Dragon and mother-Fairy and ended with young men and women lining up in an S-shaped pattern, a symbol of Viet Nam as a country.

The second part of the programme, called "Message of Peace" featured children holding five pointed-stars and entering from the stadium's four gates, representing Hanoi, the capital city with one thousand years of history. "Restoring the sword" (Tra guom) in the Vietnamese language was a song about the local people's desire for peace. Hundreds of doves were released at the end of the second part.

Dancing men and women in traditional costumes of ASEAN members and East-Timor concluded the third performance called "United ASEAN Looks To The Future", which was comprised of four performances: "Lands by the Pacific Ocean," "Essential Convergence," "New Tune," and "ASEAN Towards The Future."

The Games mascot, the golden buffalo and 22 singers, standing for the 22nd Games were then at centre stage, singing the Games official song "For the World of Tomorrow". The whole show ended as thousands of flying balls were released and fireworks were displayed in four places in Hanoi.

–Vietnam News Agency