The 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games kick-started on Saturday evening at Philippine Arena in northern Philippine Bulacan province. Athletes from 11 countries in the region will compete for 530 event medals in 56 sports in this edition.
This is the fourth time that the Philippines is hosting the biennial multi-sport event after 1981, 1991 and 2005.
Some 8,750 athletes from the 10 members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) as well as Timor-Leste will see action in 39 venues across Metro Manila, Subic, New Clark City, Angeles, among other cities on the country’s main Luzon island.
During the ceremony, the opening rites staged indoors started and ended on a festive note, turning into a dazzling celebration of Filipino culture of both the traditional and contemporary.
The eight-division world champion Manny Pacquiao, joining hands with 27-year-old AIBA Women’s World Boxing Championship Nesthy Petecio, lighted the cauldron on the behalf of the Filipino athletes.
The cauldron, which is located at New Clark City Sports Complex in Tarlac province, is some 90 km away from Philippine Arena.
Although prerecorded, the lighting of the cauldron and the lavish firework ceremony that followed still drew loud cheers from the crowd.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte officially declared the opening of the games.
Speaking at the ceremony, Alan Peter Cayetano, the Chairperson of the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee, expressed his gratitude to those who helped the Philippines put through the organizing of the Games.
“Thank you for believing in us that we can prepare in the 18 months given to us,” he added.
The theme of this year’s SEA Games is “we win as one,” signifying the solidarity and consistency of the ASEAN community. The official mascot Pami, derived from the Filipino word “pamilya” which means “family”, represents every nation, every athlete, every person coming together that support each other at the biennial gathering.
At least 12 sports are making a debut in the SEA Games 2019, including e-Sports, kickboxing, Kurash, sambo, underwater hockey, floorball, obstacle race sports, 3×3 basketball, among others.
In the previous 29 editions, Thailand finished atop the medal tally with 2,162 gold medals in total while the Philippines placed the fourth with 918 gold medals.
The games will be held until December 10.