Party time as COVID-delayed SEA Games wrap up in Hanoi

Participants take part in the closing ceremony of the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Hanoi on May 23, 2022. (Photo by TANG CHHIN Sothy / AFP)

The SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital, came to a noisy and colorful close on Monday after more than two weeks of competition in everything from athletics to soccer to esports.

The closing ceremony, held in an indoor sports complex and a joyful mix of dance, music and pageantry, brought down the curtain on a Games that started six months late due to Covid.

Nearly 5,000 athletes from 11 countries battled it out for Southeast Asian pride, with host Vietnam easily topping the medal table with 205 gold medals, followed by Thailand and Indonesia in second. and third place.

The closing gala, in a hall with a capacity of about 3,000 people, was significantly smaller than the opening ceremony when tens of thousands of people crammed into the My Dinh stadium.

But it didn’t disappoint when men in white military gear emerged onto a stage holding the flags of the 11 nations. Heavy rain fell outside.

Welcoming the success of the biennial competition, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh declared the Games closed and the baton was handed over to Cambodia, which will host the 32nd edition in about a year.

“The torch of peace and development in Southeast Asia will continue to shine,” he said.

Athletes from the countries did not parade in front of the public during the ceremony.

record breakers

Hidilyn Diaz of the Philippines celebrates her victory by winning gold in the women’s weightlifting 55kg event at the 31st Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) in Hanoi on May 20, 2022. (Photo by Tang Chhin Sothy and TANG CHHIN SOTHY / AFP)

When the Games finally got underway earlier this month, Singapore once again became the king of SEA swimming with 21 gold medals in the pool.

Malaysia won all eight diving golds in what was a generally disappointing SEA Games for the country, finishing sixth in the medal table with 39 golds.

East Timor won three silver and two bronze medals to back up the table.

Stars of the future were created and some enhanced their already global reputation.

Thailand’s Puripol Boonson, 16, broke the Games record in the 200m and also clinched gold in the 100m as he became the region’s new sprint king on the track.

Thailand’s Panipak Wongpattanakit, the reigning Olympic champion, defended her taekwondo crown, as did Filipino Hidilyn Diaz in women’s weightlifting.

National hero in the Philippines, Diaz is already eyeing the Paris 2024 Olympics.

But former Singaporean Olympic swimming champion Joseph Schooling hinted in Hanoi that his career was almost over at 26, but not before adding two more SEA Games gold medals to make it 29 for him altogether.

Controversially, he was denied gold in the freestyle relay when the Singapore sprint team was disqualified.

Filipino bodybuilders were also disappointed, who were unable to compete for breaking anti-doping rules, forcing them to leave Hanoi without even stepping on stage.

The organizers named Vietnamese Nguyen Huy Hoang (swimming) and Nguyen Thi Oanh (athletics), Singaporean Quah Jing Wen (swimming) and Thai Joshua Robert Atkinson (athletics) as the best competitors of the Games.

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