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Friday December 7, 2007

SEA Games open with glittering show of light, music and dance

THE 24th South-east Asian Games was officially declared opened at the His Majesty the King's 80th Birthday Anniversary Stadium in Korat last night in a ceremony that was amazing in more ways than one. 

In a glittering festival of light, music and dance, the opening ceremony was divided into eight segments, each with its own 'Amazing' theme. 

Let there be light: Thai athlete Udomporn Polsak was given the honour to light up the SEA Games cauldron during the opening ceremony yesterday.
Unlike in the previous days, security was tighter around the vicinity of the main stadium yesterday as a precaution following Tuesday's bombing incident in Southern Thailand. 

But that did not stop Thais clad in mostly pink and yellow to pack the newly-built 22,000 capacity stadium to the brim several hours before the show began at 5.30pm (6.30pm Malaysian time). 

The two colours symbolise loyalty and respect to King Bhumibol Adulyadej, who celebrated his 80th birthday on Wednesday. 

Fittingly, the first segment of the opening ceremony was entitled “The Amazing Great King”, a 10-minute tribute to the longest reigning monarch in the world. 

It was followed by performances celebrating “The Amazing E-Saan Wonder” and “The Amazing Glorious City”, highlighting the history and culture of the Isaan (north-east) region and its main city, Korat. 

The performances were accompanied by a dazzling laser display and incorporated replicas of colourful ancient temples and gigantic dragon boats. 

Glittering show: Dancers performing a cultural dance during the opening ceremony at the 24th Korat SEA Games yesterday.
The highlight of the evening was the fourth segment – “The Amazing Sport Ceremony”. 

It began with the march past of the 11 contingents - Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Timor Leste, Vietnam and Thailand. 

Pole vaulter Roslinda Samsu, the 2006 Doha Asian Games silver medallist, led the Malaysian contingent, who were resplendent in their orange-coloured Malaysian Tiger tops and black slacks. 

After the more than 7,000 athletes and officials had taken their places on the field, Thai Sports Minister Suvit Yodmani, the Games organising chairman, delivered his speech. 

The Games was then officially opened by the Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn. It was followed by the raising of the Games flag and the oath-taking ceremony. 

Thai female weightlifter Udomporn Polsak, gold medallist at the Athens Olympics, was given the honour to light the Games cauldron in the following “The Amazing Royal Flame” segment. 

As soon as the Korat native lit the cauldron, balls of fires rocketed skywards from various points around the stadium, and were accompanied by a dazzling display of fireworks that lit up the Korat skyline. 

More than 8,000 students from 35 learning institutions then performed in the beautifully choreographed song and dance sequences for “The Amazing Spirit”, “The Amazing Friendship” and “The Amazing Celebrations” segments. 

The segments were held in accordance with the Games' tagline of 'Spirit, Friendship and Celebrations', before the ceremony was brought to an end. 

It is the sixth time that Thailand are hosting the Games. A total of 475 gold medals in 43 sports are on offer.  

Besides Korat, competition will also be staged in Bangkok and Pattaya until Dec 15. 

So far, 43 gold medals have already been distributed ahead of the opening ceremony. 

Malaysia, who now have a haul of 2-3-6 from shooting and table tennis, are eyeing a 64-gold haul from involvement in 40 of the 43 sports in the programme. 

If the target is met, it would be the national contingent's best achievement outside Malaysia in the biennial event. Malaysia's best was a 61-49-65 haul in Manila 2005.