KUCHING: The 18th edition of Sukma was officially declared open by the Yang di-Pertua Negeri Tun Abdul Taib Mahmud in a colourful and glittering ceremony at the Sarawak Stadium in Kuching.
The ceremony on Saturday night brought to the fore the Borneo state’s rich history, culture and natural beauty.
A downpour, which began several hours before the pre-ceremony entertainment began, did not dampen the spirit of the over 40,000 Sarawakians, who had braved the bad weather to witness the event.
The carnival-like atmosphere inside and around the arena had begun hours earlier, with parking spaces around the stadium beginning to fill up from 10am.
The main dignitaries at the ceremony were Taib Mahmud and his consort Toh Puan Ragad Kurdi Taib, Sarawak Chief Minister Tan Sri Adenan Satem and Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin.
The show kicked off with an eight-minute “Beautiful Sarawak” performance.
More than 5,000 schoolchildren from 30 schools in Kuching were involved in the staging of the engaging show.
The performances highlighted the diverse ethnicity and traditions that are unique to the Land of the Hornbill.
The musical was followed by the marching in of the 15 participating contingents – Perlis, Kedah, Penang, Perak, Kelantan, Terengganu, Pahang, Malacca, Selangor, Negri Sembilan, Johor, Sabah, Federal Territories, Brunei and Sarawak.
The biggest roar of support from the crowd was reserved for the host state’s contingent, the last to march past in their smart red outfit.
Following speeches from Khairy and Adenan, a video montage encompassing the highlights of the journey undertaken during the Sukma Baton Run was displayed.
More than 8,000 people were involved in the Baton Run, which began on March 13 in Lawas and traversed major towns and villages across the sprawling state before ending at the stadium last night.
Past and present sporting heroes from Sarawak – Matjedi Bueng (hockey), Jahan Nor (football), Law Kiu Ee (athletics), Ramli Ahmad (silat), Wong Tee Kui (athletics), Sapok Biki (boxing), Edmund Yeo (weightlifting), Jonathan Ding (bowling), Zainuddin Sidi (boxing), Rosatimah Mohamad (diving), Fazillah Sylvester Silin (hockey), Kimbeley Yap (triathlon), Brian Nickson Lomas (diving) and Tania Bugo (swimming) – were given the honour to participate in the final leg of the Baton Run around the stadium’s running track.
A burst of fireworks lit up the sky immediately after the Games was declared open by the Yang di-Pertua Negeri.
A rendition of the Sukma 2016 official song Semangat Dalam Satu Suara (The Spirit of One Voice) was performed by Sarawak-born artiste Bob Yusof.
Also making an appearance were the Games mascots – Satria and Satrina, a pair of hornbills clad in the Sarawak official colours of yellow, red and black.
Although the Games only officially began on Saturday, the chase for the medals had started since Wednesday, and will continue until the closing on July 31.
This is the second time that Sarawak are hosting the biennial Sukma. The first time was in 1990.