SEA Games blasts off with opening ceremony

SEA Games blasts off with opening ceremony

The opening ceremony of the SEA Games takes place in Nay Pyi Taw today with thousands of athletes, officials and fans from 11 countries showcasing the Games' theme of "Green, Clean and Friendship".

Most of the events in the biennial Games will take place in Myanmar's new capital Nay Pyi Taw, while Yangon, Mandalay and Ngwesaung will host other competitions including water sports and sailing from tomorrow to December 22.

Myanmar is keenly looking forward to being host again after 44 years out of the limelight. The previous times they hosted the event - in 1961 and 1969 - it was called the South East Asian Peninsular Games. This time, 460 gold, 460 silver and 637 bronze medals from 34 sports - fewer than in the previous edition in Indonesia - will be up for grabs. Athletics contributes the most with 46 gold medals.

A few months ago, participating countries failed in a bid to get Myanmar to reconsider its decision to exclude sports such as tennis, gymnastics, beach volleyball and dance, which figure in Olympics. The hosts' inclusion of their traditional sports such as Chinlone, Vovinam and Kempo is seen as an effort to boost their gold-medal chances and became a talking point ahead of the Games.

After the reduction in Olympic sports, the Philippines decided to send only 208 athletes, its smallest delegation since the 1999 Brunei Games.

Thailand is sending 1,021 athletes and officials to Myanmar. Among the strong Thai squad is HRH Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana. The Princess, who represented Thailand in badminton in the 2005 SEA Games, will compete in the equestrian tournament this time.

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