Myanmar Throws 'Lavish' Opening Ceremony To Kick Off Southeast Asian Games
Myanmar staged "a lavish spectacle of lights and pyrotechnics at the opening ceremony" for the Southeast Asian Games on Wednesday, according to the AFP. The "impoverished and formerly reclusive state displayed a dazzling face to the world." Fireworks exploded above the 30,000-seat, purpose-built Wunna Theikdi stadium and a series of screens beamed "a dramatic lights show during the Chinese-backed extravaganza." The 22-day SEA Games, featuring Olympic staples like athletics alongside traditional sports like chinlone, is seen as "a coming-out party for Myanmar two years after the end of military rule." Domestic pop stars and massed ranks of dancers entertained the crowd, which burst into chants of “Myanmar, Myanmar!” when President Thein Sein "entered the stadium under a flurry of fireworks" (AFP, 12/11). The TAIPEI TIMES reported the Southeast Asian stadium is one of nearly a dozen arenas built for the Games in the "surreal, remote capital of Naypyidaw," which was carved from the jungle by former leaders of the junta just a few years ago. Some people "traveled for days in hopes of getting tickets to the opening ceremony." However, not everyone "felt comfortable with the money and energy that has been invested." The nation of 60 million remains "one of the world's poorest." China has offered nearly $33M in technical assistance, "including for the opening and closing ceremonies." Myanmar also "released more than three dozen political prisoners to coincide with the opening of the Games" (TAIPEI TIMES, 12/12).