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An extraordinary welcome

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team welcome ceremony The Thailand contingent poses outside the Singapore Sports Hub following their Team Welcome Ceremony. photo: SINGSOC

With multi-coloured national flags – not just the usual red and white – bobbing up and down to the animated rhythms of a percussion band, it appeared that Singapore had brought Southeast Asia right into our very own Sports Hub.

In a bid to present the warmest of welcomes to the contingents here for the 28th SEA Games, the Singapore Southeast Asian Games Organising Committee (SINGSOC) arranged a rather unusual welcome ceremony for them.

Featuring personalised programmes with individual ceremonies, rather than a mass one, this gesture of hospitality was also aimed at emphasising the importance of friendship at the Games.

Conveying his delight at the welcome that his contingent had received from the hosts, Thailand’s chef de mission Thana Chaiprasit said: “I like the system in Singapore; it’s very good. The system when we arrived, the set-up for the transportation, for the hotels, from the hotels to the venues for competition… [It has all been very smooth].”

“I think, for the Games, [the athletes will] have a very good experience [meeting] many friends. [We have] so many countries joined together in friendship,” he added.

team welcome ceremonyVietnam's Chef De Mission, Mr Tran Duc Phan (right), receives a token of appreciation from Mr Muhammad Rostam Bin Umar, SINGSOC Chief of Manpower and Games Engagement. photo: SINGSOC

Taking place on the 1st and 2nd of June, the ceremony saw the different countries arrive at the Sports Hub’s Kallang Wave Mall, at scheduled timings, to rousing performances by Nanyang Technological University’s cheerleading squad and Singapore Management University’s percussion group. Stepping into the mall, the contingents were also greeted with encouraging waves and cheers from sales staff and shoppers alike.

“Many of us in Singapore have looked forward with excitement to the Games. These are not just the athletes, officials, and the organisers, but also the thousands of volunteers who have stepped up to contribute to the Games, and many more residents who will cheer you on as you compete in your respective events,” shared Mayor of the Games Muhammad Rostam Bin Umar, who is also SINGSOC Chief of Manpower and Games Engagement, in his welcome speech.

“I think that most contingents and most teams will look forward to the opening ceremony, where they have the walk-past in the stadium, [and] the torch-lighting. But [through this, we] have something a little bit special for every country, to say ‘welcome to Singapore’ and showcase a little bit of the buzz and excitement that, hopefully, we’ll see at all the different venues,” concurred Nicholas Fang, who is Singapore’s co-chef de mission alongside Tan Eng Liang.

The contingents were led through the mall and up to the Stadium Roar, where stilt walkers, dancers from O School, and Nila, of course, received them. A stunning waterfront location within the Sports Hub, crowned by the majestic National Stadium as its backdrop, the Stadium Roar was a most fitting venue for this welcome.

“If you look at our National Stadium, it’s really impressive. It’s a world-class facility. To look at it, you get a sense of immensity of the occasion. And, as you look out towards the Marina Bay, you’ve got the spectacular torch structure, the water features and the Singapore skyline. It’s unmistakable for people to realise that we are in Singapore and that we’re here for a truly extraordinary and spectacular Games,” remarked Fang.

team welcome ceremony Singapore's Chefs De Mission Mr Nicholas Fang (left) and Dr Tan Eng Liang are looking forward to experiencing the Games as host to the rest of ASEAN. photo: SINGSOC

There, Southeast Asia’s contingents were treated to a dynamic dance performance that showcased the endless exuberance of youth. Following that, the chefs de mission participated in a symbolic memento exchange and flag-raising ceremony.

After snapping a few photos as keepsakes, the teams were then ushered back to their waiting transport, complete with fanfare, as the performers wished them the best for the Games.

Vietnam’s chef de mission Tran Duc Phan perhaps summed up the afternoon best when he said,  “I had a good experience at the team welcome ceremony!”

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