With the theme "One Heritage, One Southeast Asia," the 23rd Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) opened in Manila Sunday evening, highlighting the cultural and spiritual similarities of the countries in the region amid their diversity.
The opening ceremony rites, which was staged at the Quirino Grandstand, Rizal Park in central Manila and was carried live via satellite television to neighbor countries of the Southeast Asian region, started with the Philippine traditional tribal dances.
Ten Boy Scouts members, alongside 12 SEA Games "ambassadors", all of whom were local sports heroes, escorted the Philippine flag into the venue.
Following the parade of the athletes of the participant countries, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo declared the opening of the SEAG amid thunderous applauses and cheers.
As the most important sports games in the region, some 5,336 athletes and 2,319 officials from Brunei, Cambodia, Timor Leste, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam participated in the biennial event. They will compete for 441 gold medals in the ten-day showpiece.
After the sacred fire ceremony and the oath of the sportsmanship, young Filipina soprano based in Singapore, Julia Abueva, sang the Games's theme song - "We're All Just One," which was composed by famous singer Jose Mari Chan and written by Rene Nieva. Then followed a 45-minute fusion of music showcase.
The program's overall director and producer, Maria Montelibano, said the opening rites showed how Southeast Asia's common legacy has produced "thousands of unique and extraordinary athletes" with a singular passion - bring honor to their country and the region.
The entire Manila Police District has been on heightened alert since Saturday. Chief Superintendent Pedro Bulaong, MPD director, said uniformed police security officers and other special police teams has been deployed in and out of the three sports venues in Manila -- he Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, the Emilio Aguinaldo College Gymnasium and the San Andres Sports Complex.
A total of 13 gold medals will be disputed in five sports disciplines in Sunday's opening hostilities. Three gold medals will be up for grabs in athletics today at Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, one in billiards and snooker at Makati Coliseum, three in diving at Trace College in Los Banos, two in dance sport at Waterfront Hotel in Cebu and four in karatedo Mandaue Coliseum, also in Cebu.
In the previous day, the Singaporean water polo team won the first gold in the 23rd SEA Games by defeating the host the Philippines at the Trace aquatic center in Los Banos, Laguna.