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Closing ceremonies: whoopla of success
Dante Navarro (The Philippine Star) - December 10, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — After two weeks of sporting battle in various fronts and in cluster venues in Luzon, the Southeast Asian Games comes down to one final gathering of talents this side of the region not just to bid goodbyes but also to prepare for their next face-off two years from now.

But before the first training camp for the 2021 SEAG is held, the thousands more athletes and officials who stayed up to the final day of the 30th staging of the biennial meet, including the victors and the vanquished, will be treated to a night of party lined up by the hosts at the sprawling New Clark City Athletics Stadium in Capas, Tarlac tonight.

“The closing ceremony will be a celebration of our success, from the organization, to athletes winning the overall title to the volunteers, the public and everyone,” said organizing PHISGOC chief operating officer Tats Suzara.

President Duterte, who declared the Games open in glitzy rites last Nov. 30 at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan, has been invited to the event starting at 5 p.m.

“It’s going to be more like of a party, concert atmosphere,” said BCDA chief Vince Dizon. “It will not be like in the opening which was emotional, which touched a lot of hearts and made a lot of Filipinos proud.”

The Philippines will be officially awarded the overall championship, its second since reigning supreme as host in 2005, ending a string of fifth-sixth place finishes in the last six SEAGs, including a worst seventh-place finish in the 2013 Games in Myanmar.

The Games will also name the best male and female athletes, and will hand out the fair play trophy.

A drone show will usher in the program before the traditional parade of the remaining athletes and team officials with the Aeta Festival Dancers from nearby Porac, Pampanga and the Manila Concert Choir doing the opening act.

Journey’s lead singer Arnel Pineda will then sing the National Anthem while Apl.de.ap, member of the Grammy award-winning hip hop group Black Eyed Peas, will close out the festivities expected to extend late into the night.

During the ceremony, the Philippines will formally hand over the SEAG hosting duties to Vietnam, whose capital city Hanoi will host the 2021 Games from Nov. 21 to Dec. 2 with around 36 to 40 sports to be played, mainly those played in the Olympic Games.

The traditional SEAG Federation Flag Retreat will start the handover ceremony before the controversial cauldron, which was burning the last 12 days, is extinguished. The official SEAG flag will then be handed over to Vietnam, whose national anthem will be played before the next host country makes a presentation.

Making the most of its hosting turn following Brunei’s withdrawal, the Philippines lined up 56 sports, including those that keyed the country’s early romp, specifically dancesports and arnis, then the rest delivered to complete the country’s coronation as the new SEAG champion in wire-to-wire fashion.

Chef de mission and Philippine Sports Commission chair Butch Ramirez, Philippine Olympic Committee president Rep. Bambol Tolentino and organizing PHISGOC chairman and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano are also expected to attend.

Pinoy surfer Roger Casugay will carry the Philippine flag, earning the honors after becoming an instant SEAG hero for dropping his medal bid and helping save a fellow competitor after the latter’s leash snapped due to strong waves.

“The Games are not only about medals. It is about character, resilience, love for one another and shoring up the faith of the person next to you,” said Ramirez in naming Casugay as the country’s flag-bearer.

Tolentino will officially declare the Games close.

A fireworks display, as in any opening and closing rites of sporting competitions, will light up the sky before Apl.de.ap and the Black Eyed Peas kick off the night of party and concert.

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