Myanmar opens for business
THE 27th South-east Asian Games officially kicks off in Myanmar today
, with organisers hoping the glitzy Chinese-assisted event will thrust the once-reclusive country onto the world stage.
China, which capped its own international re-emergence with the Beijing Olympics in 2008, has offered nearly US$33 million (S$41 million) in technical assistance, including for the opening and closing ceremonies, presidential spokesman Ye Htut told AFP.
"China has helped a lot," he said of last night's ceremony, which was held in the Wunna Theikdi stadium, with a capacity of 30,000, in the capital Naypyidaw.
China provided lighting, the sound system and technical advice.
"The Chinese also trained 200 of our athletes on their soil and they have sent two dozen sports coaches to help us improve our (performance) level," he added.
China is keen to secure its economic and political interests in Myanmar, which sits at a crossroads between the world's second-biggest economy and regional rival India.
Myanmar is hosting the games for the first time in more than four decades, marking both a return to international sport and its gradual emergence from rule by a military junta.
Former army officer Onh Myint Oo, who is now deputy director-general of the sports ministry, said: "For 44 years, we have not had the SEA Games. Now, we are open for business."
Myanmar had already amassed 18 gold medals by Tuesday to top the medal tally, while Singapore, which will host the next edition in 2015, has two.
The Republic picked up a bronze in shooting yesterday, when Abel Lim came in third in the 50m rifle prone event.