HANOI, VIETNAM (via GLOBE TELECOM), December 5, 2003  (STAR) Twenty-eight years after the war, Vietnam plays host to the 22nd Southeast Asian Games today at the 40,000-seat National Stadium.

A joyous celebration featuring 4,000 young Vietnamese singers and dancers will highlight the opening ceremony which kicks off at 6 p.m. (7 p.m., Manila time). Around 300 Filipino athletes and officials from a total number of 625 delegates will join the traditional parade of countries, marching fourth from last in a field of 11 countries garbed in an off-white barong Tagalog and black pants. First Gentleman Miguel Arroyo, who arrived yesterday from Manila, is expected to join the parade, behind flagbearer Eduardo Buenavista and chief of mission Julian Camacho. Close to 3,635 athletes are vying in 32 events in the cities of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh and Haishung in the biennial sportsfest, which Vietnam is staging for the first time in a clear manifestation of its great desire to pursue peace and development in the region through sports.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai will declare the games open. The other campaigners in the SEAG are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, East Timor, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The Filipinos will see action in 28 of 32 events, where a total of 442 gold medals will be up for grabs. The Philippines is competing in swimming, diving, water polo, archery, athletics, badminton, basketball (men and women), billiards & snooker, bodybuilding, boxing, canoeing, chess, cycling (road race and mountain bike), fencing, gymnastics (artistic, rhythmic and aerobics), judo, karatedo, pencak silat, rowing, sepak takraw, shooting, table tennis, taekwondo, tennis, traditional boat race, volleyball (men and women), weightlifting, wrestling and wushu.

Philippine Olympic Committee president Celso Dayrit and Philippine Sports Commission chair Eric Buhain expect Filipino athletes to win a minimum number of 40 gold medals. Two years ago in Malaysia, the Filipinos bagged 31 gold, 65 silver and 67 bronze medals. Dayrit, who succeeded in getting the backing of Samsung through IMG (International Management Group) for POC activities including the SEAG here, hopes the Philippines would finish better than fifth in preparation for the countryís staging of the 2005 Games in Manila.

Camacho spoke on behalf of the participating countries during yesterday morningís flag-raising ceremony at the National Stadium. "While we all strive to win honors for our respective countries, the true aims behind the formation of the Southeast Asian Games should not be lost on," Camacho said. Filipino athletes, who have opened their campaign in archery, boxing, water polo, womenís football, rowing and gymnastics in the sportsfest ending on Dec. 13, see action in four more events starting todayótennis, bodybuilding, chess and billiards/snooker.

World billiards champion Efren "Bata" Reyes and chess Grandmasters Joey Antonio and Bong Villamayor are among those strutting their wares today. Reyes will compete in the 3-cushion carom singles, together with Reynaldo Grandea. Also playing today are veteran internationalists Warren Kiamco and Lee Vann Corteza.

2 bronze medals launch RP bid By Gerry Carpio The Philippine Star 12/05/2003

HANOI, Vietnam (via Globe Telecom) ó The Philippines missed its golden chances in archery and boxing but salvaged two bronze medals, the second in gymnastics, as it revved up for a full-scale offensive here and on the Southern front yesterday on the eve of the opening of the 22nd Southeast Asian Games.

Young Florante Matan, 20, who broke the SEAG record in the 90m distance Monday, was the heavy favorite to win the gold in the menís individual event after the top seed, an Indonesian, fell in the quarterfinals. But he lost his bearing in the semifinals, losing to Malaysian shooter Muhamad Marbawi Sulaiman to drop to the bronze medal round, which he won over Loh Wen Liang of Singapore, 108-103. World champion Sonjit Jongjonor of Thailand gave Violito Payla an early exit with a clinical 20-10 beating in the first round of the flyweight boxing competitions in Ho Chi Minh. Florencio Ferrer, competing in the 60 kg, beat Sam Skunthea of Cambodia with an RSC (referee-stopped-contest) verdict in the third round, while Francis Joven, fighting in the 69 kg, was to battle another Thai, Manon Bonjunnong, late in the night.

The menís gymnastics team was hardly a factor in the showdown for the gold in menís rotation closely won by Thailand (210.95) over Malaysia (209.50) but it earned the bronze with a score of 200.45. The Filipino archers aim for the gold again when they compete today in the menís and womenís finals at the National Sports Training Center, 25 km from downtown Hanoi. In water polo, the Philippines drew with archrival Indonesia, 12-12, and must win over Thailand today to assure itself of the silver. Singapore remained on top with four straight wins, while the Philippines and Indonesia had a second best slate with 2-1-1 win-loss-draw along with Thailand which was also forced to a draw by last-placed Vietnam, 7-7. Singapore has been assured of the gold, with its fourth straight win coming at the expense of Malaysia, 15-4.

The Filipinosí modest achievements came hours before the arrival of First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, who is here to serve as cheerleader for the RP contingent, whose bid for a haul of 40-60 gold medals he supported with funds form the First Gentleman Foundation. Philippine Olympic Committee president Celso Dayrit arrived on a separate flight and proceeded to Ho Chi Minh where the Philippines is competing in nine of the 28 sports events in the biennial meet.

All 28 RP teams, except those of fencing, which is arriving today, and wushu which is leaving Manila Dec. 9, have been accounted for as action gets into fifth gear here and in Ho Chi Minh at the southern end of Vietnam 1,700 kilometers from here, and in Hao Shiung where table tennis will be played. Wushu president Julian Camacho, chef de mission of the 625-strong RP contingent, led flag-raising ceremonies by the 11 participating nations yesterday morning.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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