HA NOI — The 25th Southeast Asian Games closed yesterday which saw Thailand topping the table after an aggressive fight against a greatly improved Viet Nam in the last day.
With golden fireworks, music and traditional Lao dancing, the biennial event which saw the participation of 11 countries closed its curtain at the National Sport Complex’s Main Stadium in the capital of Vientiane.
“The 25th SEA Games has been a real achievement. It highlighted the professionalism, spirit and desire to promote sport in Laos, and the region in general,” said Ser Miang Ng, vice-president of the International Olympics Committee.
Ng added that he was impressed with the great efforts the Government of Laos had made in organising such a successful major event, including the development of sport infrastructure to serve the games.
Ng and many of the athletes experienced the warmth, hospitality and friendliness of the host people and leaders.
Regional powerhouse Thailand successfully defended their top position at the Games by a margin of just three medals against Viet Nam that it battled it out to the final events.
The Thais finished with 86 golds , with Viet Nam taking 83. Indonesia finished third on 43.
Among the 11 competitors, East Timor made great progress with three bronze medals. It was a remarkable result for the tiny half-island nation who failed to earn anything in their first participation two years ago in Korat. Seventy games records were set during the 12 days of competition.
On the final day, the Thais and Vietnamese took two golds apiece. Viet Nam won two in shooting while Thailand captured mixed doubles tennis and women’s team petanque (boules). Myanmar picked up two in sepak takraw, the Philippines won the men’s tennis singles and Laos the men’s team petanque.
The games unveiled a Vietnamese team that had shown remarkable improvement since the 2007 event at which host Thailand amassed 182 golds against Viet Nam’s 64.
The Thais were expected to capture more than 100 gold medals in Vientiane, but Viet Nam demonstrated at these games the benefit of large amounts of government funding for sports and improved coaching.
Prior to the Games, the delegation was expecting to take home 60 to 70 golds and finish in the top three. Vietnamese athletes did better than expected, with a second place finish and 13 gold medals over their target.
The hosts received high marks from athletes, coaches and officials for running the games with a surprising efficiency mixed with traditional Lao hospitality and a laidback style.
The sporting event, staged in one of the world’s poorest nations, was the biggest in the country’s history.
The Lao teams, cheered on by avid fans, exceeded their official gold target of 25, winning 33.
The 2011 games will be hosted by four cities in Indonesia – Semarang, Bandung, Jakarta and Palembang – and will feature competition in 38 sports including non-Olympic events such as wall climbing, roller skating, chess and the Indonesian martial art of kenpo.
“We are very honoured to be selected as the host of the next Games,” said Andy Mallarangeng, head of the 26th SEA Games organising board.
“It will be Indonesia’s fourth time as host. We hope our Games will help athletes progress to higher levels such as the Asian Games and the Olympics,” said the Indonesian who on behalf of the board received the Southeast Asian Olympics Federation flag which will fly again in two year’s time. — VNS