Flying tiger, gold suits as SEA Games open

Update: August, 19/2017 - 21:30
The official mascot for the SEA Games performs during the opening ceremony of the SEA Games 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on August 19. EPA Photo
Viet Nam News

KUALA LUMPUR - A flying tiger, shiny gold suits and a parade of marching bands took centre stage as the Southeast Asian Games opened in a glittering ceremony in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.

More than 4,000 athletes from 11 nations strode into the Malaysian capital’s newly refurbished, 87,000-capacity Bukit Jalil stadium, which was sold out for the vibrant show.

Torrential rain early on failed to dampen enthusiasm as the hosts put on an entertaining spectacle before Malaysia’s king, Sultan Muhammad V, formally opened the two-week Games.

About 4,200 athletes are competing for 404 gold medals in sports ranging from boxing and equestrianism to petanque, speed skating and lawn bowls at the popular and unique SEA Games.

The opening ceremony of the SEA Games 2017 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, on August 19. EPA Photo

Games mascot Rimau, a fluffy Malayan tiger, flew into the stadium on a wire, after LED-lit pedal cars and flag-wavers wearing glittering gold suits had entertained the crowd.

Fans watched video messages from Malaysia’s badminton and squash stars Lee Chong Wei and Nicol David, who are busy with world championships commitments, and cheered the succession of marching bands.

The biennial SEA Games, formerly the Southeast Asian Peninsula Games, have been running since 1959, when the region was still emerging from its long eraof colonialism.

Malaysia, who have given the 29th edition the tagline "Rising Together", are aiming to top the medals table for only the second time by matching the 111 golds they won on home soil in 2001.

Ahead of the opening ceremony, they have already made a strong start with seven golds to lead the table ahead of Singapore and Thailand, who both have three.

The Games retain a distinctly regional flavour, with Olympic sports like swimming and athletics contested alongside Asian favourites such as pencak silat, sepak takraw and wushu.

They are a big source of national pride in the fast-growing region of about 650 million people, which all too often finds itself outclassed on the world sporting stage.

Athletes and officials of Vietnam march during the opening ceremony of the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur on August 19. AFP Photo

Việt Nam have sent 471 athletes — 211 female and 260 male sportspersons — to the event. They will take part in 32 out of 38 sports and are aiming to bag 55-65 gold medals to rank among the top three. At present, Việt Nam have pocketed three silver and one bronze medals in the archery and athletics events.

At the previous games held in Singapore two years ago, Việt Nam finished third with 73 gold medals. Thailand (95 golds) and the hosts (84 golds) secured first and second positions, respectively. — AFP/VNS