Almost ready for 'coming out' party

Almost ready for 'coming out' party
Myanmar students cheering on their countrymen during the wushu competition at the Wunna Theikdi Indoor Stadium. Singapore picked up a silver and bronze in the sport at the 27th SEA Games on 8 December 2013.

NAYPYIDAW- "Green, clean and friendship."

Even more than Myanmar's national flag, the slogan for the 27th SEA Games dots buildings, roads and pavements across the capital Naypyidaw.

While not entirely sound grammatically, the message is clear from the hosts, in their "coming out" party since the end of military rule and the lifting of Western sanctions two years ago.

"Minga laba!" (Hello!), head bows and enthusiastic waves are how the thousands of athletes, officials and media are greeted upon arriving for the biennial event, which Myanmar last hosted in 1969, when it was Burma.

Dubbed the "Royal City of the Sun", it is filled with vast expanses of greenery and wide, clean boulevards, though cars are as hard to find as stable Internet connections.

"This is our best chance to show our neighbours that we are like you now, we want to progress, we want to be treated like everyone else," Games liaison officer Tun Sein Wan, one of more than 2,000 volunteers involved in the Dec 11-22 showpiece, told The Straits Times.

Corruption and delays plagued the 2011 edition in Indonesia, which culminated with a deadly stampede among fans at the men's football final.

Although a third of Myanmar's population lives in poverty, its rulers have pulled out all the stops to be remembered for the right reasons.

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