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Myanmar bids goodbye; Singapore says 'welcome'

Gerry Carpio | Updated Tuesday December 24, 2013 - 12:00am

NAY PYI TAW - In a night of songs, dances and revelry, a nation which ended 50 years of military oppression and opened itself to the outside world, bade goodbye to new friends from 10 countries in another colorful ending of the Southeast Asian Games, a celebration of the triumph of man and the unity and brotherhood of nations, at the Wunnum Theidki National Sports Complex Sunday night.

Burmese natives, dressed in the colorful costumes of 135 tribal ancestors, performed centuries-old dances to the rhythm of native instruments, and international musical artists regaled athletes and officials from 11 countries gathered for a last time after 12 days of competition in a grand three-hour farewell party.

Fireworks cracked and exploded into the skies above the open stadium and pyrotechnics bathed the vast oval in a flood of dancing lights as fierce rivals met under their own sports, hugged each other, signed autographs and exchanged gifts and uniforms during the party, which lasted into the night until the SEAG flag was turned over to next host Singapore.

The taekwondo, judo and muay athletes, the last of the 210-member Philippine athletic contingent to stay in the Athletes Village, marched happily towards the exit with their rivals as the cauldron that remained lit the last 12 days died into the Burmese night, signaling an end to the 27th SEA Games.

Myanmar, a nation of 60 million people and one of the region's oldest civilizations with beginnings as early as the time of Christ, made a good account of itself with its effective organization of the Games.

Even before that, it scored a breakthrough in diplomatic relations when its president toured Southeast Asia to announce that Myanmar, the only SEA country to issue visa requirements, will waive it starting January next year.

It had received a $300 million grant from China to build some of the best sports structures and hold one of the most colorful opening and closing ceremonies almost rivaling the grandeur of the Beijing Olympic and Guangzhou Asian Games spectacles.

China and Japan, whose cold war has not ceased with the end of World War II, have lent their technical expertise to help Myanmar organize the Games.

For the long and hard work put up by the government and its people, the Burmese had 86 golden reasons to celebrate with their second place overall.
The highest honor again rightfully belongs to traditional power Thailand, which capped its dominance of the Games with wins in football, the centerpiece event, and in athletics, golf and men's and women's volleyball.

The stage shifts to Singapore, which gave a peek preview of what to expect two years from now in a brief sports dance presentation performed by its gymnasts and martial artists as it welcomed its neighbors with the words "Welcome to Singapore 2015."

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