KUALA LUMPUR, Aug 19 – The 29th SEA Games Kuala Lumpur 2017 officially gets underway today in a glittering and spectacular opening ceremony which befits the prestigious status of the Games as the biggest sporting extravaganza in the region. In keeping with tradition, the Games were officially declared open by DYMM Seri Paduka Baginda Yang di Pertuan Agong Sultan Muhammad V at precisely 9.26pm.
The elaborate ceremony was also attended by Malaysian Prime Minister YAB Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak, Deputy Prime Minister YAB Datuk Seri Dr Ahmad Zahid Hamidi, Youth and Sports Minister YB Brig Gen Khairy Jamaluddin and SEA Games Federation (SEAGF) President Tunku Tan Sri Imran Tuanku Jaafar.
An estimated 84,000 fans thronged the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil as early as 4pm for the opening ceremony. The venue will be turned into a hive of activities in coming weeks as its host the Games’ athletics and football competitions as well as the closing ceremony on Aug 30.
For over two hours, spectators, fans and television viewers in Malaysia and across ASEAN nations witnessed the exciting ceremony which marks the official commencement of the 29th edition of the Games. The ceremony was broadcast live on television and the various digital platforms, reaching out to millions of viewers across Southeast Asian nations.
In the meanwhile, the customary parade of the athletes from 11 competing nations rolled off at 8.31pm with Brunei leading the field starting in alphabetical order followed by Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Timor Leste.
The Malaysian contingent, parading some more than 800 athletes and officials, received the loudest cheers when keirin world champion Azizulhasni Awang, diving queen Cheong Jun Hoong and world silat champion Mohd Al Jufferi Jamari proudly led the contingent accompanied by Malaysian contingent Chef de Mission Datuk Marina Chin.
National high jumper Nauraj Singh was given the honour of taking the oath of sportsmanship on behalf of the athletes whilst PERSILAT Assistant Secretary and Vice President of the Olympic Council of Malaysia YB Datuk Megat Zulkarnain Tan Sri Omardin read out the oath behalf of Games officials.
The ceremony also acknowledged the contributions of some of Malaysia’s past legends and leading sporting icons from different generation who carried the Federation and Games flags into the stadium. They include soccer legends Datuk James Wong, Datuk Shukor Salleh and Datuk Santokh Singh, sprinter Datuk Rabuan Pit as well as bowling star Shalin Zulkifli.
The night was alighted with a four-part showpiece, directed by renowned director Saw Theong Hin, featuring Malaysia’s cultural diversity, provenance, diversity and inclusion. The Similarities in Diversity segment features some of the country’s unique cultures which include panglipur lara, Chinese, Malay and Indian drum shows, dondang saying, joget and the terinai dance.
The lighting of the Games cauldron, the highlight of the night, took place in a very inspiring way where athletes from different generations carried the Games torch, which has travelled the length and breadth of the country over the past three months, into the stadium.
The carrying of the torch involved five group of Malaysia’s former and current generation of sportsmen and sportswomen. As the cauldron rose from below the stage, dramatically cutting through the shafts of lights, the final torch bearer, none other than rising diving star Nur Dhabitah Sabri “rose from above the ground” and lit the cauldron, signalling the official commencement of the 2017 Games.
The cauldron will stay lighted over the next 12 days and will be extinguished during the closing ceremony on Aug 30. SEAGF president, Tunku Tan Sri Imran Tuanku Jaafar, in his speech paid tribute to the organisers MASOC, for its tireless efforts in ensuring the success of the Games.
“On behalf of the Federation, I would like to congratulate and thank Malaysia for hosting these Games, in particular, I would like to single out the Chairman of the Malaysian SEA Games Organising Committee (MASOC), Brigadier General Khairy Jamaluddin, who is also the Minister of Youth & Sport, and his hardworking team, for producing what I am sure will be a memorable and successful 12 days of sport at the highest level.”
Youth and Sport Minister YB Brig Gen Khairy, in his speech said: “For those of us gathered here tonight, and the millions watching at home, we all believe in the power of sport to unite, to inspire and to bring the very best out of us. It is for this very reason that the SEA Games has been such an important part of shaping the community of Southeast Asian nations that is now coming of age.”
A total of 18 gold medals have been decided since the competition started on Aug 14 and 386 more gold medals will be up for grabs as athletes get into full gear over the next 12 days of competition. The SEA Games concludes on Aug 30, a day before the nation celebrates its 60th Independence Day.