HÀ NỘI — The official countdown to next year’s Southeast Asian Games began on Saturday when representatives of regional countries met in Hà Nội for a ceremony witnessed by thousands of local residents.
The event held at the Lý Thái Tổ Garden next to Hoàn Kiếm Lake was part of activities to celebrate one year to the 31st tournament.
The Games will be held in Việt Nam for the second time, following the first time in 2003.
“Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Việt Nam will try its best to prepare and organise a successful SEA Games. The tournament will be a chance for ASEAN countries to show our friendship, solidarity and understanding with each other,” said Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyễn Ngọc Thiện, head of the 31st SEA Games organising board.
The biennial Games will be on November 21-December 2 with 40 official sports held mainly Hà Nội.
“It is a year from now to the opening ceremony. We still have many things to do, the preparation for infrastructure, athletes and logistics,” said Lê Hoàng Yến, deputy head of the Việt Nam Sports Administration.
“But it is really an honour for us to hold such a big competition and we believe that sports officials and Vietnamese people will be proud of being hosts, warmly welcome international friends and promise a fair-play competition on home turf,” she told Việt Nam News.
ASEAN representatives push botton to kick off the countdown clock to mark one year to SEA Games in Hà Nội on November 21. — Photo bvhttdl.gov.vn
Many national champions attend the event.
“As the winner of the 2019 SEA Games, my top target definitely is to defend my title,” said world Muay Thai champion Bùi Yến Ly.
“Along with my teammates, I am working hard to ensure our readiness for the Games. I hope that I will perform best for another title, especially when I am fighting at home with great local support,” she told Việt Nam News.
The 11th Para Games with 14 sports will follow the SEA Games, starting mid-December.
Meanwhile, a rare mammal known as the sao la in Việt Nam had been chosen as the mascot for the 31st SEA Games mascot, according to the Việt Nam Sports Administration.
The animal, also known as the Vũ Quang ox, spindle horn or Asian bicorn (Pseudoryx nghetinhensis), is a forest-dwelling bovine found only in the Trường Sơn Mountain Range stretching across Việt Nam and Laos.
The species was defined following the discovery of its remains in 1992 in Vũ Quang Nature Reserve.
Sao la by painter Lê Xuân Khôi beat more than 550 other entries over a two-year contest.
"The mascot is a rare animal in Việt Nam which is smart and cute. It is a clear symbol for both formal ceremonies and a sporting festival," said Lê Huy Tiếp, one of the judges.
"I've been intrigued by the sao la since it was first known to the world in 1992, and now I have a chance to express my love for it," said Hà Nội-based Khôi.
"It is also a way to introduce the sao la to our international friends as well as protect the animal from extinction. I believe the sao la will be talked about a lot in the year to come," he said.
The official logo for the Games is a work by Hoàng Xuân Hiếu, an art lecturer from Huế.
The logo is a combination of five fingers holding the 10-circle chain Southeast Asian Games Federation logo, shaping an image of a dove, which is a symbol of peace.
"I created the logo with pride. There are short and long fingers in a hand. But at the SEA Games there are no differences between athletes. They will all compete for their nation's success," said Hiếu, who overcame nearly 1,000 other participants.
The mascot will also be used for the 11th Para Games.
Hiếu designed the logo for the Para Games using the same shape, but the emblem of the Southeast Asian Games Federation is replaced by that of the Southeast Asian Para Sports Federation.
The organisers also reveal 'For a Stronger Southeast Asia' as the slogan for the competitions. — VNS