Myanmar officially opened the 27th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games on December 11 with a flashy ceremony in the capital of Nay Pyi Taw.

The event has been billed as a coming-out party for the country, which is emerging from decades of international isolation.

Tens of thousands of people witnessed a lavish spectacle of lights and pyrotechnics at the ceremony.

Fireworks exploded above the 30,000-seat, specially-built Wunna Theikdi Stadium, as a series of screens beamed a dramatic light show during the extravaganza.

The 22-day Games were formally opened when a bare-chested warrior in a chariot fired a blazing arrow to light a symbolic flame in a large cauldron set high in the stadium.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, U Tint San, Union Minister of Sports emphasised the significance of the Games’ motto of “Green, Clean and Friendship”, saying he hoped that all of athletes would show their skills and talents in competition, in a sense of fair-play and good sportsmanship.

It is the third time Myanmar has hosted the Games. The first and second Games were held in Myanmar in 1961 and 1969.

The Sea Games are held every two years, offering regional bragging rights and a chance for athletes from lesser sporting nations to shine in sports, ranging from athletics to the obscure cane-ball game chinlone, as well as martial arts vovinam and pencak silat. Competition has already finished in some events.

But the bulk of the competition begins on December 12 and continues until the closing ceremony on December 22. Athletes compete in 33 sporting events for 460 gold medals.

Vietnam, with 10 gold medals, remains in second place in the ranking table.

Host Myanmar is still on top with 18 gold medals, while Thailand has replaced Indonesia in third place with six first place titles.-VNA