MANILA: The Philippines staged a spectacular opening ceremony for the 30th SEA Games at the world’s biggest indoor arena, the Philippine Arena, in Bulacan, near here, tonight.
In a departure from tradition, the opening ceremony was held in an indoor arena rather than a stadium.
Also, for the first time in the biennial Games’ 60-year history, the games cauldron was placed at a different location, at the New Clark City Athletics Stadium, some 90km from Bulacan, and the lighting of the cauldron was shown on screen at the 55,000 capacity arena.
The extravaganza started after Filipino singer Lani Misalucha sang the republic’s national anthem, which was followed by an extraordinary performance themed “The Roots of our Strength”, showcasing the culture and heritage of the nation.
The spectators were treated to a series of warrior dances from the Bagobo, the Kalinga, the Maguindanao, Islamic and the pre-Hispanic Visayans.
The later part of the ceremony was powered by modern and hip-hop performances led by local artistes Inigo Pascual, Robert Sena, Apl.de.Ap and KZ Tandingan, among others.
The contingents received loud cheers from the audience as they paraded into the arena in alphabetical order, starting with Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, Timor Leste and Vietnam, before host nation the Philippines ended the march.
Led by flag-bearer and 2018 bowling world champion Rafiq Ismail, the Malaysian contingent were represented by a delegation of about 100, including chef de mission Datuk Megat Zulkarnain Omardin and his two deputies, Nurul Huda Abdullah and Ahmad Faedzal Md Ramli.
With the men dressed in white baju melayu and red samping with tengkolok, and the women in white baju kurung and selendang with Jalur Gemilang motif, and black shoes, the multi-racial Malaysian contingent, the hosts of the previous games, walked past the crowd proudly, symbolising the multiculturalism of the country.
World renowned Filipino boxers Manny Pacquiao and Nesthy Petecio were given the honour as the torchbearers before they jointly lit the cauldron to officially mark the beginning of the 30th SEA Games, after Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte had declared open the Games.
Themed ‘We Win As One’, the Games will run for 12 days until the closing ceremony at the New Clark City Athletics Stadium on Dec 11.
More than 8,000 athletes from the 10 ASEAN countries and Timor Leste will compete in 530 events in 56 sports at the three main clusters, namely Manila, Clark and Subic.
The Philippines have hosted the SEA Games three times before – in 1981, 1991 and 2005.
This year’s Games see the introduction of a few new sports such as arnis, jujitsu, kickboxing, underwater hockey and esports.
Defending champions Malaysia have sent a strong contingent of 773 athletes and 339 officials to participate in 52 sports, targeting 70 gold, 51 silver and 105 bronze medals, which is expected to place them fourth overall.– BERNAMA