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A spectacular SEA Games opening!

Loudest cheers go to Team Singapore in high-tech show

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FINAL TORCHBEARERS: Fandi Ahmad (right) and his son Irfan embarking on the final leg of the torch relay during the 28th SEA Games opening ceremony at the National Stadium.

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HOME TEAM, HIGH LIGHTS: Singapore athletes marching during the opening ceremony (above left) and performers and volunteers putting on a glittering show that featured the world's largest projection system used in any sporting event in history.

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HOME TEAM, HIGH LIGHTS: Singapore athletes marching during the opening ceremony (above left) and performers and volunteers putting on a glittering show that featured the world's largest projection system used in any sporting event in history.

Singapore

SINGAPORE promised a spectacular opening to the 28th SEA Games on Friday - and duly delivered a stunning ceremony that dazzled the 40,000-strong crowd at the National Stadium and millions more watching on TV at home and around the region.

Over 5,000 performers and volunteers put on a glittering two-hour show that featured the world's largest projection system used in any sporting event in history.

At various points during the ceremony, the floor of the National Stadium was transformed into a massive screen, courtesy of some 160 high-definition projectors.

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President Tony Tan Keng Yam officially declared the Games open. Seated in the crowd were Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, members of the Cabinet including Deputy Prime Ministers Teo Chee Hean and Tharman Shanmugaratnam, and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong, among others.

The Sultan of Brunei Hassanal Bolkiah was among the many foreign dignitaries who flew in for the event, and they looked on and cheered as Singapore kicked off the 12-day sporting fiesta in grand fashion.

It is the first time the Republic is hosting the biennial multi-sport event since 1993; the SEA Games counts as one of the key events of the country's golden jubilee celebrations.

Amid the festivities, Culture, Community and Youth Minister Lawrence Wong said it was also a time to remember and pay tribute to the late Lee Kuan Yew, Singapore's founding prime minister who died in March at the age of 91.

"Mr Lee played a key part in developing a sporting Singapore. He officially opened our former National Stadium in 1973, when Singapore first hosted the SEA Games. Tonight, we are gathered together once again, at the same site in Kallang, but now in a different stadium in this new majestic Sports Hub," said Mr Wong.

He added: "We will be writing a new chapter of our sporting story - it's a story of Singapore sport, and also South-east Asian sport."

There were many high points during the show. In the athletes' parade, 4,000 athletes from the 11 participating South-east Asian nations marched into the stadium led by their respective flag-bearers.

The loudest cheers went out to Team Singapore's 749 athletes when they appeared, with swimmer Quah Ting Wen waving the country's red-and-white flag up high.

One segment of the show paid tribute to the country's sporting legends, including the likes of former national swimmers Ang Peng Siong and Joscelin Yeo and former sailor Ben Tan.

The Games' mascot, a lion named Nila, arrived by parachute, and there were audible gasps in the audience when several giant LED animals entered the stadium during one of the acts.

Finally, the biggest secret of the SEA Games - the identity of the final torchbearer to light the cauldron - was revealed; it was none other than former national football striker Fandi Ahmad, and his eldest son Irfan.

The torch relay began when the flame arrived on a dragonboat in the Kallang Basin. Different generations of Singapore's greatest athletes took turns to pass the torch from one to another.

Among the 13 who had the honour were cyclist Dinah Chan, men's hockey captain Enrico Marican and hockey pioneer Annabel Pennefather, and ex-national badminton player Wong Shoon Keat and his son Derek.

There was a thunderous roar when the announcers revealed that 53-year-old Fandi, arguably Singapore's most famous footballer, and his 17-year-old son would be the ones given the honour of lighting the giant cauldron outside the National Stadium.

With the SEA Games finally open, the focus now turns to the competition in 36 different sports over the next 11 days until June 16.

Some sports such as football and table tennis have already started, with hosts Singapore claiming 18 medals to date, including seven golds.

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