Burma's SEA Games bursts into life

The official opening ceremony of the 27th SEA Games on Wednesday evening was well-coordinated, colourful and extravagant. It went ahead without a visible hitch and even evaded what meteorologists had earlier described as an 80 percent chance of a rainstorm.

The new Burmese capital, Naypyidaw, often described as a “ghost town”, was transformed into a bastion of colour and light, a festive extravagant night that could in time be considered the city’s “coming of age” – its prom night.

The carnival atmosphere kicked off at 5pm at the Wunna Theikdi stadium. The ceremony was hosted in Burmese and English by MCs Su Yamin and Swe Hein. A festive program of entertainment was led by the “Burmese Lady Gaga” – Phyu Phyu Kyaw Thein. Other Burmese singers followed: Zaw Win Htut, Nay Nay, Htoo El Linn, Sone Thin Par, Phyo Gyi, Yuzana, Maykhala and Saw Khu Hser, providing a taste of Burmese culture to the outside world which will surely whet the appetites of many potential tourists.

In the tradition of sporting opening ceremonies, the teams were led into the stadium where an enthusiastic crowd, including Burma’s President Thein Sein and his wife, stood and applauded. Following the exit of the athletes, the venue was transformed once again into a massive stage for a three-hour kaleidoscope of dance, song, fireworks and other visual delights.

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Burma has been participating in the SEA Games since 1959 and has hosted the event twice before. Although Wednesday marked the opening ceremony, several sports have already been completed. Burma currently leads the medal table with 19 golds, 12 silver and 10 bronze. A total of 460 gold medals will be awarded in 33 separate sports during this SEA games.

In the 26th SEA Games hosted in Indonesia in 2011, Thailand won the highest number of medals with 266 while Burma went home with just 71 medals.

Speaking to DVB on Wednesday, Presidential Adviser Ye Htut said, “Our national sports teams, as well as our volunteers, media personnel and technical staff have proved that Myanmar is capable of managing this difficult task. I believe those abroad watching the opening ceremony of the SEA Games on TV will appreciate our capability and regard this as a victory for all the people of Burma.”

Asked about what would happen to all the stadia and facilities after the games, Ye Htut said, “The athletes’ villages and the stadiums will be used as training centres and will also be used to host the [biennial] National Sports Festival as well as ‘friendship’ games. So establishing these facilities is just the first step for the development of Burmese sports – it’s not just for the SEA Games.”

The games go into full swing on Thursday with no less than 15 sports taking place in Naypyidaw, Rangoon and Mandalay: swimming, badminton, basketball, boxing, canoeing, chess, cycling, equestrian, football, futsal, pencak silat, pétanque, sepak kakraw, shooting and wrestling.

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