Chef de mission Tan Eng Liang happy with Singapore's start so far

THEIR smiles were matched only by the blazing sun and the snazzy red-and-white shirts they wore during the SEA Games welcome ceremony for Team Singapore outside the Kallang Wave Mall yesterday.

They had good reason to be delighted during the 6pm ceremony, which saw the Singapore flag raised and the national anthem played.

Just hours earlier, Singapore's women table tennis players had ensured that the hosts would be the first nation to win a gold medal at these Games.

Lin Ye and Zhou Yihan beat Feng Tianwei and Yu Mengyu in the all-Singapore final.

The country will be fielding 749 athletes across 36 sports, the largest-ever contingent.

The previous record was also on home ground when 483 athletes were fielded in 1993.

When asked for Singapore's gold-medal target, chef de mission Tan Eng Liang, 76, said: "It is top secret... but if there is any target, that target must celebrate our 50th anniversary.

"Therefore, it is quite safe to say that 50 is definitely a target.

"Anything more than 50 is better, it is a bonus!"

Singapore also welcomed nine other delegations yesterday.

"To me, this is like a renewal of friendship as most of them already know each other," Dr Tan added.

With most of the foreign delegates checking in to their hotels and visiting the competition venues, co-chef de mission Nicholas Fang, 38, said: "The feedback from some of the foreign delegates is that the facilities are really world-class."

Dr Tan is pleased with the hosts' start so far.

He said: "The netball team are in good shape, they are doing well and know who their strong opponents (Malaysia) are.

"We won in football, that is the most important thing.

"In my opinion, it should be 3-0 but one goal is still a win.

"So I think the initial start bodes well for Singapore."

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