The atmosphere was electric as the fifth ASEAN Schools Games (ASG) kicked off in Hanoi on June 23.

Among the high-ranking officials in attendance at the opening ceremony were Vietnamese Vice President Nguyen Thi Doan, National Assembly Vice Chairman Uong Chu Luu and representatives from international organisations in Vietnam and sports delegations of the ASEAN Schools Sports Council (ASSC) member countries.

Addressing the event, Vietnam’s Deputy Minister of Education and Training Tran Quang Quy said that the Games provide a healthy playing ground for regional students to exchange and integrate.

The eight-day event allows participating countries to strengthen their solidarity, cooperation and friendship while promoting their unique cultural identities and sporting spirit, Quy said.

The ASG is an annual event which started in 2009 and is managed by the ASSC, a non-Governmental organisation established by ASEAN member countries to boost sports activities among them.

This year’s competition welcomes student athletes from Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei, the Philippines and Laos. They will compete in nine disciplines: athletics, swimming, badminton, basketball, gymnastics, table tennis, volleyball, pencak silat and sepak takraw.

In last year’s event, Vietnam won 60 medals, including 27 golds, finishing in fourth place.

On the same day as the opening, the ASEAN Schools Sports Council held its 66th meeting, where participants heard reports on the programmes and activities that the council implemented last year. Members discussed measures to mobilise more funds from businesses and social organisations to develop the council further.

Quy, who is Chairman of the Vietnam Student Sports Association, declared that Vietnam has always considered the improvement of education a leading national policy in order to develop the country and the region.

Vietnam’s participation in sports activities held by the ASSC has contributed to the region’s cooperation and development as well as bringing practical benefits for Vietnamese students and tightening solidarity, friendship and mutual understanding, he added.-VNA