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Games get underway at Rajamangala

Published on August 9, 2007


Fire works are on display during the opening ceremony of the 24th World University Games at Rajamangala Stadium yesterday.

The International University Sports Federation (FISU) will present its Highest Honorary Decoration to HM King Bhumibol Adulyadej tomorrow.

The FISU recently sent an official statement to the 24th Universiade Bangkok Organising Committee saying it would like to present the decoration to His Majesty.

It is to honour him for his role as an avid sportsman, particularly in sailing. His Majesty won a gold medal in the OK dinghy class in the Fourth Southeast Asian Peninsular (SEAP) Games (now the SEA Games) in 1967.

Moreover, HM the King has always bestowed his personal support on Thai athletes and provided royal patronage to many sport associations.

The committee has already sent a request to the Office of His Majesty's Principal Private Secretary to seek permission for FISU president George E Killian to have an audience with the King.

Dr Sumate Yamnoon, the deputy secretary-general of the Commission on Higher Education and executive director of the 24th Universiade Bangkok 2007, said at a press conference on August 3 that the King had graciously designated HRH Crown Prince Maha Vajiralongkorn to receive the decoration on his behalf.

The Crown Prince has granted an audience to the FISU president and executive board members at the Sukhothai Palace tomorrow.

The FISU decoration to be presented to HM the King is a pure gold medal that is eight centimetres in diameter.

On the medal appears the FISU logo and five small stars studded with five diamonds of 0.25 karats each. This is the first presentation of the FISU honour.

Meanwhile Thais turned out en masse at the Hua Mark Sports Complex yesterday to witness the once-in-a-lifetime experience of Thailand hosting its first World University Games.

The lively atmosphere started in the morning as officials, vendors, policemen, volunteers and others got into swing to tidy things up before the arrival of participants for the opening ceremony at Rajamangala Stadium yesterday.

But enthusiastic spectators began arriving even before many of the booths had opened. Over 10,000 school students, most of them in yellow T-shirts, drifted into the venue to help fill up the stadium as ticket sales for the opening ceremony unexpectedly turned sluggish.

But spectators both local and foreign who came to the event of their own choice too, though not many.

"My wife and I just arrived here yesterday [Tuesday]. We came here because we want to support our daughter. She is one of the taekwondo team. This is our first time to see the opening ceremony" said American David Pelham, 49.

A total of 60 Chinese students who live here and some staff of China Unionpay company, came to the stadium in their uniforms.

"Our company is the main sponsor of the Chinese volleyball teams and they want us to support the Chinese players," said Zheng Ping-fu. Athletes, who were given a rest day to join the ceremony, made their way into the stadium through a special entrance in the afternoon. Some appeared in tracksuits and some in team costumes.

The opening ceremony was hours away, but a whole host of activities were there for people to occupy their time under the overcast sky, which provided cool conditions for the

athletes and spectators as they waited.

Sponsor booths with dancing shows, singing and drumming performed by volunteers and acrobatic displays by youngsters provided some interesting distractions.

To boost sales, the ticket booths made a last ditch effort by offering a special promotional price and free items.

A wide variety of souvenirs were available for shoppers who desired to have some memorabilia of the Games.

The adorable rabbit mascot dolls, a cute necklace with pendant, colourful models and the usual key chains, pens and coins were abundant.

Unfortunately, not many people were spending money on them.

But when it came to give-away items, it was funny to see how endurable people could be to get things for free. A seemingly endless queue of patient people waited for hours to get free T-shirts, scarves and plastic clubs. Nothing so special about the design of these complimentary items from a giant petrol firm but the fact that it was free was worth the wait.

Around 1,300 policemen were on duty. Bomb detection devices were plentiful.

Aware of the traffic congestion, the media troops made their way to the stadium quite early, only to find themselves jammed in a tiny press room shared by dozens of officials and police - very much a case of sardines.

But it wasn't just humans taking part in the extravaganza, as animals also had a role. A total of 23 horses arrived in the early afternoon to get ready for their part in the opening ceremony.

Earlier bomb-sniffing canines patrolled the stadium compound for explosive substances, while Pai Nga Thong, a 23-year-old male elephant from Ayutthaya Elephant Palace Royal Kraal, took his time under a tree, waiting to play his part in the opening ceremony.

 Lerpong Amsa-ngiam

 Somporn Supop

 The Nation

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