Monday marks a tumultuous and colorful finale after more than two weeks of competition in everything from SEA Games athletics to football and sports in Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam.
The closing ceremony, held at an indoor sports complex and a delightful mix of dance, music and competition, brought down the curtain on a game that started six months late due to Covid.
Nearly 5,000 athletes from 11 countries competed for the glory of Southeast Asia, with host Vietnam easily topping the medal table with 205 gold, followed by Thailand and Indonesia in distant second and third place.
The closing gala at a venue with a capacity of about 3,000 people was significantly smaller than the opening ceremony when thousands of people thronged the My Dinah Stadium.
However, this did not disappoint as men in white military uniforms came on stage carrying flags of 11 countries. Heavy rain outside.
Appreciating the success of the biennial competition, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minchin announced the closure of the Games and handed over the mantle to Cambodia, which will stage the 32nd edition almost a year from now.
He said the torch of peace and development in Southeast Asia will continue to burn.
Athletes of the country did not parade in front of the spectators during the event.
When the Games finally started earlier this month, SEA re-emerged as the king of swimming with 21 golds in the Singapore pool.
Malaysia won eight golds in diving, which was a generally disappointing SEA Games for the country, with sixth place in the medal tally with 39 golds.
East Timor won three silver and two bronze medals at the table.
The stars of the future were created and some of them already strengthened their worldwide reputation.
Puripol Bunson, a 16-year-old from Thailand, broke the 200m Games record and won the 100m gold as he became the region’s new sprint king on track.
Current Thai Olympic champion Panipak Wangpattankit has retained her taekwondo crown, as Filipino Hidlin Diaz did in women’s weightlifting.
Diaz, a Philippine national hero, is already eyeing the Paris 2024 Olympics.
But former Singapore Olympic swimming champion Joseph Schooling Hanoi indicated that his career was nearing the end of his 26-year career, but not before adding two more SEA Games gold to make it 29 overall.
Controversially, he was disqualified from gold in the freestyle relay when Singapore’s sprint team was disqualified.
There was also frustration for bodybuilders in the Philippines, who were barred from competing because they failed to comply with anti-doping rules, and were forced to leave Hanoi without even going on stage.
Organizers have named Vietnam’s Nguyen Huay Huang (swimming) and Nguyen Thi On (Athletics), Singapore’s Kwa Jing Wen (swimming) and Thailand’s Joshua Robert Atkinson (Athletics) as the top competitors in the Games.
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