Next in Korat: The Asean Para Games

Nakhon Ratchasima (Agencies) - Once again, Korat will be the centre of attention as 1,500 disabled athletes from Asean compete at the 4th Asean Para Games which will officially open Sunday.

The athletes from Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Indonesia, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, Brunei and Timor Leste will flex their expertise in a myriad of sports.

Dubbed the biggest ever games for the disabled, the event will be held at His Majesty the King's 80th Birthday Anniversary Stadium sports complex in the main town of Nakhon Ratchasima province, often called Korat.

The theme of the biennial event is"Friendship, Equality and Opportunity". Its main objectives are promotion of friendship and sports development, and integrating them into society. The games end on Jan 27.

Athletes will competing in athletics, badminton, chess, goalball, judo, powerlifting, swimming, table tennis, wheelchair basketball, wheelchair tennis, archery, boccia, fencing and shooting. At stake are 935 gold medals.

Meant for the physically disabled, the games are organised just after the SEA Games by the same host nation, like other multi-sports tournaments like the Olympics and the Asian Games.

The Asean Para Games is under the regulation of the Asean Para Sports Federati on (APSF).

The first Asean Para Games was held in Kuala Lumpur in 2001, with just athletics and swimming. Two years later, the number of sports increased to five during its second edition in Hanoi, Vietnam.

When it was hosted in Manila in 2003, 10 sporting events were contested, followed by 14 in the fourth edition.

Next week, athletics, swimming, boccia, goal ball and wheelchair tennis will be held at the main stadium, while Suranaree University of Technology facilities will host archery, wheelchair basketball, badminton, chess and fencing.

The Rajamangala University of Technology will be the venue for judo and Chanapolkhan Institute of Technology (power lifting).

Korat Asean Para Games Organising Committee (KAPOC) secretary-general, Sakon Wannapong, said the city was ready to host the games for disabled athletes.

"We are 100 per cent ready, and are gearing up to host another important sporting event in the region," he said.

"As for now, all athletes have arrived at the Athletes Games Village. They began coming since last Wednesday. All equipment have been installed, and work to build the ramp or widen the entrance has been completed. We are ready to host another great games."

Host country, Thailand, and the emerging Vietnam paralympic athletes who pipped Malaysia to third spot at the last Asean Para Games in Manila, are the pre-Games favourites.

In Manila, Thailand won the competition, followed by Vietnam and Malaysia.

Bangkok Post