SINGAPORE - About 1,650 student-athletes and officials from the region gathered at the Singapore Indoor Stadium as the Asean Schools Games (ASG) was declared open by Minister for Education (Schools) Ng Chee Meng on Friday (July 14).
The Republic is hosting the annual ASG for the first time since 2011.
Over 600 performers from 25 participating schools, including a choir from Bedok South Secondary School, were involved in the opening ceremony.
Former national gymnast Lim Heem Wei, Singapore's first Olympic representative in the sport, also performed a routine for the estimated 4,500-strong audience at the Indoor Stadium.
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In tribute to parents of the student-athletes, the ceremony featured a parents' and coaches contingent.
A video montage of the region's sporting heroes, including Singaporean Olympic champion Joseph Schooling, Malaysian diver Pandelela Rinong and Filipino boxing champion Manny Pacquiao, was also broadcast.
The July 14-20 ASG coincides with Asean's 50th anniversary, and this is the first year that all 10 Asean countries are competing at the Games.
Singapore will be represented by 205 athletes from 45 schools participating in all 10 sports - athletics, swimming, bowling, sepak takraw, table tennis, basketball, badminton, volleyball, tennis and gymnastics.
The foreign contingents arrived on Thursday (July 13), and while some athletes admitted that they were still a little tired from their trip, they are looking forward to the start of the competition.
Cambodian bowler Faiz Bobby was impressed with home-grown fried chicken fast food outlet Four Fingers, which he sampled on the day of his arrival.
The 17-year-old named the crispy fried chicken as his "favourite food" here so far, and as talk turned to the bowling competition, he said: "My target would be at least a podium finish. I've prepared for this competition for three to four months and I missed a lot of school because of it."
Vietnamese swimmer Jeremie Luong and Filipino volleyball player Jamie Margaret G Frago are ASG debutants, and the duo are eager to experience both the competitive and non-competitive aspects of the Games.
Jeremie told The Straits Times: "I'm excited and looking forward to swimming my best timings."
The athletes will be housed in the Games Village located at the National University of Singapore's UTown campus, and the 16-year-old added: "I think (having us stay at) UTown is a good idea as it allows us to interact with one another."
Jamie, 15, agreed. The teenager, who plays middle blocker for her team, said: "My goal (for the ASG) is to play my best and help my team win the competition.
"I'd like to learn more about the other countries' cultures as well."
Swimmer Jade Lim from Temasek Junior College was the torch-bearer. The 17-year-old, together with her father, former national footballer Lim Tong Hai, carried the torch around the arena before lighting the Games cauldron together.
Discus thrower Eric Yee, a student at Hwa Chong Institution, led the athletes in taking the athletes' oath.
Competition will take place from July 15-19, before the closing ceremony on July 20.
Additional reporting by Ho Cai Jun