(ATR) The motto of the 4th Asian Beach Games is "Celebrate Charming Sunshine." However, monsoon-like rains threatened the opening ceremony at the Saphan Hin Sports Center stadium.
Fortunately, for athletes and representatives from 43 Asian countries as well as the Phuket organizers, the heavy rains subsided just in time. The showers and accompanying winds lasted nearly 30 minutes causing a 15-minute delay to the scheduled 6:30 p.m. start of the opening ceremony on the shores of the Andaman Sea.
Celebrating the mesmerizing beauty of Phuket – the largest island in Thailand – and its sandy white beaches and emerald green waters, the theme of the ceremony was "Phuket – Miracle of the Island."
Host Thailand, represented by 20 athletes at the ceremony, as was the case for all delegations due to the lack of size and space at the temporary stadium, was the last nation to enter the stadium concluding the parade of athletes.
Thailand will be represented by 343 athletes in Phuket, comprising the largest delegation. China, hosts of the previous Games in Haiyang, had the second largest contingent with 196 athletes, followed by Vietnam with 153, and India and Indonesia represented by 120 and 118 respectively.
Upon the conclusion the parade of athletes, OCA president Sheikh Ahmad was the first to address the competitors who had gathered on the sand in the middle of the open-ended stadium with its splendid views of Phuket Bay and the Andaman Sea.
Sheikh Ahmad told the athletes to enjoy the "competition, sun, sea and sand."
The charismatic OCA leader also thanked the province of Phuket and the nation of Thailand for their support of the Asian Beach Games.
Thailand General Surayuth Julanon proceeded to declare the games open.
"We wish that the games can be a symbol of unity among Asian countries," Julanon proclaimed. "Under the grant of his majesty, the king, I declare that the fourth Asian Beach Games are now officially open."
Thailand’s popular beach volleyball duo Varapatsorn Radarong and Tanarattha Udomchavee, who captured the gold medal at the previous Beach Games in China, carried the flame into the stadium. Ultimately, after hovering above the congregation of athletes at the Saphan Hin Stadium, it was a drone which stunningly ignited the lighthouse cauldron.
More than 1,200 performers dazzled the audience during the high tempo and dreamy ceremony which included five performances and multiple spectacular fireworks displays.
The Asian Beach Games take place in the "Pearl of the Andaman" as Phuket is often referred, through November 23.
Big Buddha is Watching
One curious observer will have a bird’s eye view over all competitions happening throughout the Beach Games.
Phuket's Big Buddha is one of the island's most important and revered landmarks. The larger than life, 45-meter tall presence sits high atop the Nakkerd Hills with a 360-degree view vantage point over the island’s towns and beaches.
One has to believe that the power and spirit of Big Buddha will ascend Thailand to the top of the medal tables.
The host nation is the early leader with 14 medals, including four gold.
Written by Brian Pinelli in Phuket
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