By Sisay Vilaysack
December 21, 2012
As the flaming cauldron dimmed yesterday it signified the end of the 10-day 16th Asean University Games, and smiling athletes raised their hands in farewell after a joyous time in the Land of a Million Elephants.
The 10 days of competition were packed with emotion – the ecstasy of winning and the pain of losing. But the most important aspect of the event was the sense of friendship and peace that prevailed under the games’ slogan ‘We are Asean Family’.
The goodbyes that take place today need not mean that we are far apart. We will all carry in our hearts the special memories of these past 10 days in the Lao capital Vientiane and remain close to one another forever. Although it may be goodbye to Vientiane, we will all meet again in Indonesia in two years’ time.
Last night we watched enthralled as the delegates and athletes representing 11 countries from Southeast Asia gathered again at the main stadium of the National Sports Complex in Vientiane. But the atmosphere was different compared to the opening ceremony because some competitors had tears in their eyes at the thought of having to part with their friends.
Every participant in the games has benefited from the experience and improved their skills, bringing closer the dream of one day playing for their national team at a higher level.
The student teams from the National University of Laos improved upon their ranking at the previous Asean University Games held in Chiang Mai, Thailand, in 2010 when they came sixth. This year their hard work paid off and they moved up to fifth place.
This year’s games saw 240 gold, 240 silver and 320 bronze medals awarded for 240 events in 17 sports.
The Lao teams won 32 gold, 35 silver and 46 bronze medals, placing fifth behind Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia. In 2010, Lao managed only 2 gold, 9 silver and 30 bronze medals and placed sixth out of 11 participating countries.
Malaysia topped the medal tally with a haul of 60 gold, 48 silver and 72 bronze, while in second place was Vietnam with 56 gold, 35 silver and 28 bronze medals.
Thailand came third with 45 gold, 52 silver and 56 bronze medals, while Indonesia placed fourth with 41 gold, 52 silver and 61 bronze medals.
The official closing ceremony began at 5:30pm with the parading of the Asean University Games flag followed by a grand procession of all the athletes from the 11 countries taking part.
After the opening parade, the Vice Chairman of the Organising Committee, Prof. Dr Soukkongseng Saignaleuth, who is President of the National University of Laos, summarised the results of the games and thanked all supporters and sponsors.
Then the Organising Committee Chairman, Dr Phankham Viphavanh, who is Minister of Education and Sports, talked about how the competitions had cemented bonds of friendship and peace between the athletes and officials from participating countries. At the same time, he said, the various sports had raised the bar for the students of Asean universities.
The games’ organising committee then thanked all the sub-committees for their hard work, as well as Lao people all around the country, and local and overseas sponsors who had helped to make the games a success. They also thanked the 2,533 delegates, including the 1,625 athletes, for sharing in the games and wished them a safe journey home.
The games were officially closed by Deputy Prime Minister of the Lao PDR, Asang Laoly.
Before the final performances, Indonesian Ambassador to Laos, Kria Fahmi Pasaribu, on behalf of the Indonesian government, received the Asean University Games flag. He also gave a speech to welcome everyone present to Indonesia in two years’ time.
A troupe of Indonesian dancers then gave a colourful performance as a foretaste of their welcome at the 17th Asean University Games in 2014.
This was followed by more presentations from young Lao performers and the ceremony then proceeded to the impressive grand finale as fireworks erupted into the night sky.
And so everyone bid farewell to Vientiane, the capital of Laos, but with their sights firmly set on the next Asean student games in Indonesia.