Explained: SEA games and their various mascots

Sao La is the mascot of the 2021 Southeast Asian Games hosted by Vietnam. It was inspired by Vu Kwang Bowid, a rare, forest-dwelling cattle that was found in 1992 in the Anamite Range in Vietnam. The mascot was chosen after two years of competition with about 500 entries.

By definition, a mascot is a symbol that is used to represent an idea. It serves as a message in sports competitions. Most SEA games, in a quadruple event, combine animals with human-like characters. Their expressions are like a child, bright and cheerful with adorable qualities, where the host country symbolizes identity.

A dog walks in front of a banner with a picture of the official mascot of the upcoming 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Hanoi on May 4, 2022, before the start of the May 12 multi-sport event.  (Photo by NHAC Nguyen / AFP)

A dog walks in front of a banner with a picture of the official mascot of the upcoming 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Hanoi on May 4, 2022, before the start of the May 12 multi-sport event. (Photo by NHAC Nguyen / AFP)

“Sao La”, the creature that was first found in Vietnam, the organizers of the 31st Southeast Asian Games, combined a picture of a dove and a human hand to create a “V” shape for the logo, which represents peace, Vietnam. And victory.

The mascot was named “Sao La” or “Vu Kwang Bovid”, which represents the biodiversity of the Anamite Range on the Vietnam-Laos border. Sawla is known to be found only in the anamite range.

Sawla is one of the rarest large mammals in the world. It has the appearance of a goat, combined with sero. It is classified under the Bovidae family, just like the cow. It has two horns, so many people in Laos call this animal “Sao-la” which has the same pronunciation.

No evidence is found for the origin of the name. In Vietnamese it means rarity and beauty.

Cats and elephants – symbols of Thailand

Indonesia's Suryo Agung Weibo poses with his gold medal and mascot after winning the men's 100m at the 24th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Korate, 07 December 2007.

Indonesia’s Suryo Agung Weibo poses with his gold medal and mascot after winning the men’s 100m at the 24th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Korat, 07 December 2007. AFP Photo / Saeed Khan

Cats and elephants have long been used symbolically by Thailand. At the 1998 Asian Games in Thailand, there was an elephant mascot named Chai-yo when the motto was “Friendship Beyond Frontier.”

In 1995 and 2007 – cats acted as mascots in the last two Southeast Asian Games hosted by Thailand.

The 1995 Southeast Asian Games were held in Chiang Mai and the 700th anniversary stadium was used as the main venue.

The mascot of the Games was a Siamese cat named Sawasdi. It is believed that the Siamese cats brought luck and were kept in their palaces from the state of Ayutthaya.

The red umbrella carried by the cat was representative of Bo Sang village in Chiang Mai, famous for its delicate hand-made and painted umbrellas. The name ‘Sawasadi’ represents the identity of Thais and Chiang Mai.

The 2007 SEA Games Thailand was held in Nakhon Ratchasima Province. The mascot of this competition was a Korat cat named Kan. Its origin is in Fimai district of Nakhon Ratchasima. “Fa Khao Ma” is a traditional Thai waist-wearing mascot and northeastern-style facial organ playing khaen, representing Thailand and the Northeast.

Lions and tigers

SEA Games mascot "Sapphire" The opening ceremony of the biennial Southeast Asian Games (SEA) Games at the National Stadium in Singapore on June 5, 2015.

The mascot of the biennial Southeast Asian Games (SEA) “Sapphire” was seen at the opening ceremony of the biennial Southeast Asian (SEA) Games on June 5, 2015 at the National Stadium in Singapore AFP Photo / Roslan Rahman

Singapore has selected a lion named Sapphire as the lucky one for the 2015 SEA Games. The lion is the national animal of Singapore when the name Sapphire comes from Sang Nila Utama, the founder of Singapore. Neela had a red gem and a heart-shaped face and was described as brave, passionate and friendly.

At the 2017 SEA Games, host Malaysia chose the Malay Tiger as a mascot. It was named Rimau, an acronym for Key to the Game: Respect, Integrity, Move, Attitude, and Unity.

The Malayan tiger can be a symbol of the country because Malaysia is located in the middle and lower part of the Malay Peninsula. The tiger is highly respected in Malaysia because it is present in the coat of arms of Malaysia, which is a symbol of strength and courage.

Therefore, tiger is the symbol of Malaysia in sports because we have often seen the symbol of yellow tiger.

‘Pami’ is a symbol of unity

A mascot does not always have to come from animals. The host of the 2019 SEA Games, Philippines, did not use an animal as a mascot but a simple design, “Pami”, was chosen to represent the family.

Pami consists of four circles of four different colors from the Philippine flag – white, blue, red and yellow. The motto of the competition was “We win as one.”

These are examples of mascots used in SEA games. Not only are they charming and attractive, they can come together and reduce the tension in the competition as the SEA Games are held to establish deep ties between the countries of Southeast Asia.

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