Saturday, 6 June 2015

SEA Games 2015 Opening Ceremony

Singapore says 'hello' to region's athletes
SEA Games opens with celebration of the past and a nod to future
By May Chen, The Straits Times, 6 Jun 2015

IT WAS a visual spectacle that began with fantasy, was fashioned with fireworks, and finished with the climactic transfer of flame to cauldron.

But as Singapore embraced the SEA Games for the first time in 22 years, the two-hour opening ceremony of the region's premier sporting event was ultimately a celebration of the feats of past heroes and a nod to the future.

At the symbolic moment of 8.15pm - or 20:15 - Singapore, backed by a boisterous crowd of 40,000 at the National Stadium last night, extended a warm "hello, and welcome" to 7,000 athletes and officials from the participating ASEAN nations and Timor Leste.

Declared open by President Tony Tan Keng Yam, and witnessed by dignitaries such as Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, and Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, as well as other parliamentarians, the ceremony was thick with symbolism.

The venue and view of the city skyline as backdrop was a reminder that Singapore and its sporting landscape are in a markedly different era from each of the three previous times (1973, 1983, 1993) the Republic has hosted the event.

A grey, concrete arena, first erected post-independence to promote healthy citizenry, has given way to a state-of-the-art facility that nurtures world beaters and houses top sporting action.

Led by creative director Beatrice Chia-Richmond, organisers took pains to personify the Games' theme - "Celebrate the Extraordinary".

The five-act production took some 5,000 performers and volunteers to pull off but also used remotely controlled medallions given to each spectator to form a rhythmic LED light backdrop.

The show adopted the theme of DNA to illustrate human individuality and mankind's common ability to aspire and achieve.

And it was precisely people, among them former athletes whose feats have sealed their place among the pantheon of Singapore sporting greats, who helped drive that message home.

Thunderous cheers enveloped Singapore's contingent - its biggest ever at 749 - when the hosts anchored the athletes' parade, led by flag bearer and swimmer Quah Ting Wen.

As if to show today's talents standing on the shoulders of former greats, swimmer Joseph Schooling - revealed as the show's narrator - emerged with the likes of former sprinter C. Kunalan, former national swimmer Joscelin Yeo and retired bowler Grace Young.

The lighting of the cauldron was the night's highlight. Travelling across the Kallang basin, the Games torch was received and carried by 13 torchbearers, including four inter-generational pairs. It passed through the hands of sprinters, hockey players and shuttlers before reaching footballers.

As Fandi Ahmad joined hands with his son Irfan to light the cauldron, the act represented the passing of the torch from one generation to the next.

"We will be writing a new chapter of our sporting story - it's a story of Singapore sport, and also South-east Asian sport," Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong said.

Thousands of athletes will begin battle today across the island.

Team Singapore are already off to a stellar start with seven golds to sit atop the medal table.

The Straits Times predicts a bumper harvest of 80 golds for the hosts, far surpassing the record haul of 50 in 1993. A feat like that would be a fitting gift for the nation on its 50th anniversary - and truly symbolic of how far Singapore sport has come.


Legends share the limelight as 28th SEA Games open
By Low Lin Fhoong, TODAY, 6 Jun 2015

After months of planning and anticipation, the 28th SEA Games kicked off yesterday evening with a spectacular opening ceremony that drew more than 40,000 people to the new National Stadium, where Singapore sporting legends including C Kunalan, Glory Barnabas, K Jayamani and Ang Peng Siong were thrust into the limelight alongside the country’s current generation of athletes.

Various ASEAN leaders, including Brunei’s Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, were present as Singapore President Tony Tan declared the Games officially open, to raucous cheers.

The three-hour extravaganza of stunning light displays and singing was divided in five acts, showcasing the cultures and traditions of the region as well as the essence of unity, imagination, youth and the efforts of local sporting greats who had once done the nation proud.

And it was perhaps nostalgia that rippled through the crowd of young and old, with families in tow, as parents told their children of a time when the Games first starred at the old National Stadium in 1973, when sprint legend C Kunalan dashed up the steps with the torch, holding on stoically while the flames burnt his hand.

Or of the 1983 Games, and again in 1993 when the biennial event was previously held here, when swimming’s golden girl, Joscelin Yeo, completed a nine-gold feat at the Toa Payoh pool.

As the SEA Games return to Singapore after 22 years, the National Stadium, along with 30 other competition venues around the island, will bear witness as the Republic’s national athletes write their stories of triumph, tears and joy in what is also the biggest event yet as Singapore marks her Golden Jubilee.

As Singapore ushered in the region’s sporting tournament in fine fashion and welcomed over 7,000 athletes and officials here, more than 400 gold medals will be handed out before the Games close on June 16.

Yesterday, from giant trees and orang utans, to flying cranes, turtles and trains, oohs and aahs echoed through the stadium as the giant props came flying through the venue during the five-act show, while Nila the Games mascot provided the “cute” factor, parachuting into the stadium to the delight of the young ones in the crowd.

Amid the celebrations, Singapore also took time to pay tribute to its founding father, former Prime Minister Lee Kuan Yew, in a moving video tribute on his contributions to and thoughts on sports in Singapore. Mr Lawrence Wong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, said in his speech at the opening ceremony: “On this night, we also remember to pay tribute to Singapore’s founding Prime Minister, Mr Lee Kuan Yew. Mr Lee played a key part in developing a sporting Singapore. He officially opened our former National Stadium in 1973, when Singapore first hosted the SEA Games. Tonight, we are gathered together once again at the same site in Kallang, but now in a different stadium — in this majestic Sports Hub.”

Touted as the curtain-raiser for the SG50 celebrations, the SEA Games’ main attraction will certainly be the 749 national athletes gunning to win over 50 gold medals to celebrate the nation’s 50th birthday. So it was no surprise that Team Singapore drew the loudest cheers as it made its way into the stadium, as the country and the show paid tribute to the country’s sporting legends, who featured alongside the star attraction of the games, swimmer Joseph Schooling.

But the whistles were reserved for football’s favourite son Fandi Ahmad, the final torchbearer in the inter-generational pairs of current and ex-athletes running the final lap in the stadium. Linking up with eldest son Irfan, the duo lit the Games cauldron at the Kallang waterfront, kicking off what was the start of the 36-sport event.

SEA GAMES 2015 Opening Ceremony: Singapore football legend Fandi Ahmad and his son Irfan Fandi light the cauldron, signifying the beginning of the 28th SEA Games 2015.
Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Friday, June 5, 2015

Talk ahead of the Games had some questioning the choice of Fandi — who has never won a Games gold medal — as the candidate to light the cauldron, but a return to the spiritual home of Singapore football was a special one for the 53-year-old.

“This is my greatest moment,” he said. “I’ve won lots of titles here and there, but this is the greatest one. This is even much more important than scoring a goal in the Malaysia Cup Final. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. (And) it is special doing this with my son because in handing over, I hope he will represent the country in several years to come and hopefully, he can guide other youngsters to score.”

"I cried a bit because it's so special for me and all the athletes who are not just representing the Singaporean athletes, but also the ASEAN region": Singapore football legend Fandi Ahmad Official, on lighting the SEA GAMES 2015 cauldron with his son Irfan.
Posted by Channel NewsAsia Singapore on Friday, June 5, 2015

Honour goes to Fandi and Irfan
2 final torchbearers picked to signify passing of torch between generations
By May Chen And Low Jay Sen, The Straits Times, 6 Jun 2015

AFTER months of guesswork, the identity of the 28th SEA Games' final torchbearer finally came to light at precisely 9.58pm last night.

Only it was not one, but two who put torch to cauldron to signal the start of South-east Asia's biggest sporting event.

Singapore football's favourite son Fandi Ahmad, beaming with his eldest son Irfan beside him, took the Games torch on the last leg of its journey round the National Stadium.

The identity of the final torchbearer had been the subject of intense speculation in the lead-up to the opening ceremony.

Fabled athletes like former weightlifter Tan Howe Liang, Singapore's first Olympic medallist, were among the names being bandied around.

Swimmers like Joscelin Yeo, the region's most bemedalled SEA Games athlete with 40 golds; Ang Peng Siong, once the world's fastest 50m freestyle swimmer; and 2014 Asian Games champion Joseph Schooling had also been mentioned.

In the end, the honour went to Fandi - arguably the most famous name football-crazy Singapore has produced - and his son, the youngest player on the current SEA Games football squad at 17.

Judging by the cheers of the 40,000 spectators, the choice was a popular one.

For the 53-year-old Fandi, captain of the 1994 Dream Team that won the Malaysia Cup and M-League double, lighting the cauldron surpassed even the euphoria from his playing days.

Almost at a loss for words yesterday, he said: "This means more to me than scoring a goal in a Cup final. To be given this opportunity is very, very special. It is the greatest honour for me."

Fandi and Irfan now follow in the footsteps of three others who lit the cauldron when Singapore hosted ASEAN's biennial sports meet - sprinter C. Kunalan (1973), athletics' late Tan Eng Yoon (1983) and bowler Grace Young (1993).

In departing from convention to appoint two final torchbearers, organisers had hoped to signify the passing of the torch from one generation to the next.

The three other inter-generational pairs were athletics' Prema Govindan and Shanti Pereira, hockey's Annabel Pennefather and Enrico Marican, as well as badminton's Wong Shoon Keat and his son, Derek.

Dragonboat's Clement Neo, shuttler Liang Xiaoyu, sprinter Muhammad Naqib Asmin, judoka Gabriel Yang and 2013 SEA Games cycling champion Dinah Chan were also torchbearers yesterday.

Said Irfan: "... to be the one chosen makes it special, and even more special to do it with my dad.

"It is a way for me to say 'thank you' to Singapore."

After 22 years, the Sea Games returns to Singapore in 2015! From 5th-16th June, the city-state will host the 28th Sea...
Posted by SEA GAMES 2015 on Friday, June 5, 2015

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