Fireworks lights up the sky during the closing ceremony of the SEA Games at the athletics stadium in Clark, north of Manila yesterday. AFP/VNA Photo
THE PHILIPPINES The 30th Southeast Asia (SEA) Games ended on Wednesday with a rocking closing ceremony in the 20,000-seater purpose-built stadium in Clark.
After a chaotic start beset by organisational gaffes, a presidential apology and online mockery, the Games were briefly hit by a deadly typhoon, but organisers worked round the clock to get the schedule back on track.
The ASEAN member-flags along with athletes march during the closing ceremony of the SEA Games yesterday. AFP/VNA Photo
"This year, Christmas has come early," chairman of the organising committee Alan Peter Cayetano said to thousands of flag-waving fans in the stadium after each country's athletes had paraded by.
"We Southeast Asians, we Filipinos, have shown the world that we can do it with world-class quality."
Around 8,750 athletes and officials took part in the biggest-ever SEA Games across ten days of competition, involving sportsmen and women from 11 countries in venues across Clark, Manila and Subic in the country's north.
Philippines' Olympic committee chairman Bambol Tolentino (right) hands over the SEA Games flag to a Vietnamese official during the closing ceremony of the SEA Games yesterday. AFP/VNA Photo
Once the celebrations have died down, however, organisers will face a government probe after the embarrassing build-up to the Games generated the wrong kind of headlines and a mocking hashtag #SEAGamesFail.
The SEA Games wrapped up and Việt Nam had perhaps the best Games in its history.
After 11 days of competition, Việt Nam closed the event with 98 golds, 85 silvers and 105 bronzes to rank second in the medal tally.
The hosts topped the rankings with 149 golds, 117 silvers and 121 bronzes, while Thailand finished third with 92 golds, 103 silvers and 123 bronzes.
Although Việt Nam only competed in 43 of the 56 events, the athletes surpassed the goal of winning 65-70 gold medals and a third-place finished.
It is the first time since the 2009 SEA Games in Laos that Việt Nam have finished second.
“Although Vietnamese athletes train and compete in difficult conditions, they overcame all to play with an unyielding spirit and will because of Việt Nam’s colours. This spirit made the success of Việt Nam's sports delegation in this year’s Games,” said Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, Nguyễn Ngọc Thiện.
The event saw many Vietnamese athletes break the Games’ records such as young swimmer Nguyễn Huy Hoàng, who won gold and set a new Games record at the New Clark City Aquatic Centre in the men's 1,500m freestyle in a time of 14min 58.14sec. He smashed the old record of 15:20.10 he set two years ago in Malaysia. At the same time, he also earned a berth to compete at the Tokyo Olympics next year.
Swimmer Trần Hưng Nguyên broke the Games’ record in the men’s 400m medley with a new time of 4:20.65, beating the old record set by Nguyễn Hữu Kim Sơn at the Games two years ago.
Runner Nguyễn Thị Oanh from the northern province of Bắc Giang also set a new record in the women’s 3,000m steeplechase with a time of 10:00.02.
Both the men's and women's football teams came home with gold medals, the sixth for the overall for the women and the first for the men.
Though Việt Nam’s key rivals Thailand and Philippines used many naturalised athletes and several key Vietnamese athletes couldn't take part, athletics was sill a goldmine for Việt Nam with 16 golds, 13 silvers and nine bronzes. This result topped Thailand on four golds and the hosts on five.
The Vietnamese swimming team ranked second out of 11 countries with 10 golds, six silvers and nine bronzes, only behind Singapore.
Swimmer Nguyễn Thị Ánh Viên won the most golds of any single athlete at the Games with six. She also added two silvers.
Tennis was also an area of success with a historic first gold medal in the men’s singles, alongside two silvers and one bronze.
Việt Nam also dominated in wrestling with 12 gold medals out of the total 14. The two remaining golds went to the Philippines.
With the resounding success of the Games this year, Việt Nam are well placed for even more glory at the next games in Việt Nam in 2021.
Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc lavished praise on the men's and women’s football teams after their resounding success in the finals of the SEA Games against Indonesia and Thailand at the Government Office on yesterday.
The PM said the men's team had inspired national development.
Speaking at the meeting, head coach Park Hang-seo said he and his team were under huge pressure going into the tournament because they had never won gold before, while the women’s team had five titles under their belts.
We were determined to win going into the final and received a letter from the PM. I thank the clubs for training my players for this victory. This is for the Vietnamese people,” he said.
Head coach of women’s team Mai Đức Chung thanked the Government and fans who supported the players.
“With solidarity and determination, our girls have done well in every game,” he said.
An hour after the team’s victory, several patrons had already committed to present some VNĐ5 billion (US$215,000) for the players.
The team also received congratulations and a bonus of VNĐ100 million from President of the Việt Nam Women’s Union Nguyễn Thị Thu Hà.
The Vietnamese women defeated rivals Thailand 1-0 with the only goal scored by Hải Yến at the start of extra time, but it was enough for the team to defend their gold medal. VNS/AFP
Performers from Vietnam participate during the closing ceremony of the SEA Games yesterday. AFP/VNA Photo