Hearts of millions beat as one at Lao National Stadium

Posted by samakomlao Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The nation's most anticipated event finally unfolded last night when the biennial regional sports competition, the SEA Games, officially opened in the Land of a Million Elephants.

Some 8,000 performers put on an unprecedented display of pageantry for the 20,000 spectators attending the grand opening ceremony of the 25th SEA Games at the National Stadium in Vientiane on Wednesday evening.
This is a truly great opportunity for Laos to show the world, especially the Asean region, that we can host an event in a style that befits the 50th anniversary of the Southeast Asian Games Federation.

Over 20,000 people flocked to the National Stadium last night to share in a joyful occasion that united everyone lucky enough to be present.

Spectators joined with government members and foreign guests in welcoming the athletes from 11 nations to the SEA Games in Vientiane .

The crowd watched in awe as one wave of performers after another swarmed into the vast arena, heralded by a stunning light show. A total of 8,000 performers put on an extravaganza of dazzling grandeur.

At the same time, millions of people throughout the country and the region watched the glittering spectacle live on television.

Standing Deputy Prime Minister and SEA Games Organising Committee Chairman, Mr Somsavat Lengsavad, reported that this year's 25th SEA Games comprised 25 sports with the participation of 3,038 athletes from 11 countries.

Of special note is the fact that at this SEA Games Laos has the privilege of welcoming the prime ministers of four neighbouring countries as well as the Asean Secretary General. This is unprecedented in SEA Games history.

President of the Lao PDR Choummaly Sayasone concluded the speech-making by declaring the 25th SEA Games open.

Before the show began, spectators gave a standing ovation as the athletes from each participating nation paraded around the stadium, beginning with Brunei Darussalam.

Brunei Darussalam has brought 74 athletes and officials to take part in seven sports. At the last SEA Games in 2007, Brunei won one gold, one silver and four bronze medals.

Cambodia has sent a 214-member team, who will compete in 19 sports. In the 2007 games, Cambodia won two gold, five silver and 11 bronze medals.

The Indonesian team consists of 650 people, competing in 21 sports. Indonesia ended the last SEA Games with 56 gold, 64 silver and 83 bronze medals.

Malaysia 's team of 564 is competing in 21 sports. In the 2007 edition they won 68 gold, 52 silver and 96 bronze medals.

Myanmar has sent a team of 389, who will take part in 18 sports. In 2007, they went home with 14 gold, 26 silver and 47 bronze medals.

The Philippines has a team of 413 athletes and officials, who will compete in 23 sports. In the 2007 games, they won 41 gold, 91 silver and 96 bronze medals.

Singapore 's group of 413 members will compete in 19 sports. In 2007, they won 43 gold, 43 silver and 41 bronze medals.

Previous SEA Games host Thailand has sent an 816-member team who will compete in all 25 sports. In 2007, they topped the medal tally with 183 gold, 123 silver and 103 bronze medals.

Timor Leste's team of 61 will take part in nine sports. Competing in the SEA Games for the first time in 2003, they have yet to win a gold medal .

Vietnam has a 681-member team who will compete in all sports. In 2007, Vietnamese athletes took home 64 gold, 58 silver and 82 bronze medals.

This year's SEA Games host Laos proudly entered the stadium with the largest team, comprising 853 members. The home team will compete in all 25 sports at this year's competition. In 2007, Laos won five gold, seven silver and 32 bronze medals.

Among the seemingly endless array of surprises that awaited spectators was the sight of boxing superstar Vongkot Chinda running into the stadium and holding aloft a flaming torch.

A cheer went up as he paraded before the crowd before passing the torch to the sporting heroes of other countries who were gold medal winners at previous SEA Games.

Vongkot won the first silver medal for Laos at the 1989 SEA Games in Malaysia , and followed this up with a second at the 1993 SEA Games in Singapore . Another of his successes was a bronze medal at the Asian Games in Beijing , China , in 1990.

The SEA Games opening ceremony was devoted to promoting the various cultures of all participant nations, as well as friendship and peace.

Other themes included environmental and biodiversity protection and the need to sustain these priceless resources for the next generation.

The highlights of Lao history also took centre stage, with colourful displays reflecting the Lao people's long tradition of protecting and developing their beloved nation, always seeking peace and friendship.

As the stadium filled with the massed performers for the grand finale, a thunderous firework display exploded into the night sky.

The evening's truly incredible pageant set the scene for an even more wonderful sporting event in the days to come.

By Sisay Vilaysack


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