The Southeast Asian Games officially kicked off on Thursday in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi after a six-month delay because of the coronavirus pandemic.
It is the first major gathering in the country since the start of the Covid-19 outbreak.
“Despite the difficulties caused by Covid-19, we are here today as a symbol of solidarity of the 11 Southeast Asian nations to overcome all challenges,” Hanoi Mayor Chu Ngoc Anh said in a speech.
More than 5,000 athletes will be vying for over 500 gold medals in the event.
The 11-nation Games include traditional Olympic events such as athletics, swimming and boxing, but also regional ones like sepak takraw.
Around 600 artists performed during the opening ceremony at the My Dinh National Stadium on Thursday, with about 20,000 spectators and officials present.
The biennial games were originally scheduled for last December but were postponed due to Covid-19. Vietnam reopened in March, two years after its borders were closed to curb the virus.
This 31st edition of the regional event will be the first to feature xiangqi, also known as Chinese chess, which is popular in the host country.
These Games will also see the return of Vietnamese martial art vovinam. Events retained from 2019 include eSports, dancesport – a competitive form of ballroom dancing – and the ancient Uzbek wrestling art of kurash.