HANOI – Vietnam brought an end to the 31st SEA Games in style on Monday (May 23) in a closing ceremony that saw cultural performances, a colourful lights display and a chorus of songs.
Held at the Hanoi Indoor Games Gymnasium, the closing ceremony was a low-key affair compared to the spectacular opening at the My Dinh National Stadium that kick-started the May 12-23 sporting extravaganza.
The one-and-half-hour fiesta, which saw several song and dance performances, closed with the official song of the Hanoi SEA Games – Hay Toa Sang (Let’s Shine).
The last day of action on Sunday concluded memorably with the Vietnam Under-23 football team’s 1-0 win over their Thai counterparts, adding the icing on the cake for the hosts, who enjoyed a record-breaking Games with 205 gold, 125 silver, and 116 bronze medals.
The previous record haul was the 194 gold medals set by Indonesia as hosts of the 1997 Games.
Finishing in second, third and fourth places respectively were Thailand (92-103-136), Indonesia (69-91-81), and the Philippines (52-70-104).
Singapore's contingent of 424 athletes across 33 sports finished fifth. They racked up 47 gold, 46 silver and 71 bronze medals.
At the closing ceremony, Singapore swimmer Quah Jing Wen, 21, was named among the four best athletes for their individual performances at the Games.
Vietnam swimmer Nguyen Huy Hoang, runner Nguyen Thi Oanh and Thailand's Joshua Robert Atkinson were the others who were honoured.
Quah, who won six gold medals and a bronze at these Games, was not present and Singapore's assistant chef de mission (CDM) Asmah Hanim received the award on her behalf.
Asmah was part of an 11-strong Team Singapore contingent – which was led by CDM S. Sinnathurai – at the ceremony.
Also feted were the men and women behind the scenes, who had contributed towards a successful hosting of the Games.
This included more than 1,200 international referees that officiated in 40 sports and 2,970 volunteers who had been deployed at competition venues and various hotels around Vietnam's capital.
After a sequence of Vietnamese musical performances and a highlight reel of the Games' best moments, Vietnam Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh then declared the Games closed and the cauldron was extinguished.
The SEA Games flag was then handed over to Cambodia, which will host the next edition from May 5 to 16 next year in Phnom Penh.
In a prelude to the 32nd Games, Cambodian dancers and singers performed a song called "Welcoming and Blessing". The 2023 Games' mascots, Borey and Rumduol – two rabbits in traditional Khmer attire – were also involved in the cultural performance.
The night began with special effects lighting up a pitch-black arena and ended with dancers sashaying as confetti fell from the ceiling.
The transition from darkness to light summed up what the Hanoi Games have represented.
Originally scheduled for late 2021, the Games were postponed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
But amid the gloom that had been cast over South-east Asia in recent years, the region's sporting event has brought cheer and – most importantly – a much-needed sense of normalcy again to the people of Hanoi and beyond.