The competitions will intensify over the next few days, as Southeast Asia’s best para athletes fight it out for the coveted 8th ASEAN Para Games (APG) medals. However, beyond the prizes and glory, a firm foundation of friendship prevailed, as indicated through Thursday evening’s opening ceremony at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Dancers of different abilities, musicians of various nationalities, and even a seated version of the iconic Kallang Wave were introduced in order to ensure that no one was left out.
The APG’s opening ceremony was, ultimately, a stunning show that celebrated the strong bonds of an all-inclusive ASEAN, where differences served to form a colourful fabric, strengthening rather than dividing us. Photo: SAPGOC
“This is a multi-media extravaganza that dazzles, and that helps raise the bar, and supports the campaign for inclusivity,” explained the ceremony’s creative director Philip Tan.
Comprising five movements, the show kicked off with the emcees (Oon Shu An and Terrence Tay) and sign language interpreters (Teo Zhi Xiong and Chan Shi Mei) addressing the audience as one hosting unit, complete with dynamic interaction.
Emcees Oon Shu An and Terrence Tay (in white), and sign language interpreters Teo Zhi Xiong (left) and Chan Shi Mei. Photo: SAPGOC
The entrance of the ten contingents was another highlight of the evening’s programme, as the officials and athletes filled the Indoor Stadium stage, sharing the limelight alongside the performers. In fact, this intimate set-up also witnessed some entertaining dance moves from a few of the delegates, including a sporting little number by Malaysia’s Chef de Mission, Ang Kean Koo.
The Vietnam contingent. Photo: SAPGOC
The rest of the show’s movements involved students with special needs and dancers with hearing impairments taking the stage with able-bodied performers, as well as Team Singapore para athletes Aishah Samad (shooting), Choo Poh Choon (wheelchair basketball), Jason Chee (table tennis), and Yap Qian Yin (sailing).
Expressing delight at the opportunity to participate in something so significant, Nanyang Academy of Fine Arts (NAFA) dancer Lee Silei said: “This is my first time performing at an opening ceremony! The chance to dance with Luo Mang, the solo dancer from Eden School, made the entire experience very meaningful and memorable.”
Luo Mang, who has autism, had opened the show with an impressive performance in Movement I, presented in collaboration with the NAFA team.
Also integrated seamlessly into the show were the ceremonial aspects, including the oath-taking segment where national bowler Thomas Yong represented the athletes, head referee for boccia Lanny Kwok recited the officials’ pledge, and athletics coach Muhamad Hosni Bin Muhamad took on the coaches’ version.
The 8th APG torch was borne by, in this order, powerlifter Kalai Vanen, swimmer Benson Tan, shooter Aishah Samad, swimmer Toh Wei Soong, badminton player Tay Wei Ming, swimmer and flag-bearer Yip Pin Xiu, and boccia player Aloysious Gan. The latter three athletes took on the honour of lighting the cauldron.
The unique ceremony concluded with a fitting finale that involved students from 15 different special education schools. Along with the rest of the performers and hosts, they led the audience in “signing”, to a rousing tune, two simple yet powerful lines: “10 people (countries) come together for ASEAN, friendship is our greatest strength.”
Come together with the rest of Southeast Asia as we look forward to the moving displays of friendship and the formation of new bonds at the 8th ASEAN Para Games, which will run all the way till 9 December!