The little-talked about Southeast Asian nation Laos is for the first
time hosting the Southeast Asian Games. The impoverished country is heavily
dependent on foreign aid and much of the funds for hosting the sporting event
have come from its Asian neighbors. But as VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from
Vientiane, people in Laos are still quite proud to host the games.
The 25th Southeast Asian Games officially opened in Laos Wednesday with
ceremonial marching, singing and dancing. Fireworks lit up the sky as the SEA
Games, as they are known, were declared open at the national stadium. A flaming
arrow was shot into a massive cauldron to light the torch attached to the new
stadium. The elaborate performances reflected how important it is for Laos to
be hosting the games. The regional competition brings together 11 nations,
thousands of athletes and their supporters for the first time in Laos.
Forty-two year-old Tho Phom Ponh runs a souvenir and snack shop just across
from the national stadium. He says that having the Southeast Asian Games in
Laos is important for all Lao people.
He says hosting the games will make every country in the world know Laos and
make Lao people very happy. He says it is important for Lao people to support
the games and introduce themselves to the world. Laos is a one-party communist
state and one of the poorest nations in the region with its exports largely
limited to raw materials.
The land-locked country hopes hosting the games will bring new prestige,
despite having to rely on its Asian neighbors to pay for much of the costs. The
multi-million-dollar stadium was paid for by China. And Japan, South Korea,
Thailand and Vietnam contributed millions of dollars for the construction of
other buildings for the games.
Nonetheless, at the opening ceremony, Laos Deputy Prime Minister Somsavat
Lengsavad said that hosting the games is a major
point of pride for his country. He thanked the prime ministers of Burma,
Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam for attending the ceremony, calling their
presence an unprecedented event.
Competitions in some of the 28 events started last week.
Our staffer Vannasone also interviewed by phone some artists from the Lao PDR about their sentiments and participation in the opening ceremony
Click on any of our audio files to listen to their comments and Daniel Schearf's report in Lao(translated by Dara Baccam).