KUALA LUMPUR–The majestic Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon, Myanmar provided a perfect backdrop in the fourth leg of the Rising Together Baton Run as the city of more than seven million look to outdo the Southeast Asian three cities previous venues.
The Yangon leg is the latest stopover for the whirlwind Malaysian Kuala Lumpur 2017 entourage after the run in Bandar Seri Begawan (Brunei Darussalam), Manila (Philippines) and Vientiane (Laos), where a total of at least 20,000 participants thus far have participated in this newly- inaugurated Baton Run.
“I believe this Baton Run has made Malaysia a consistent trend setter from the region. I hope that this tradition will be continued to the next Games in 2019,” Datuk M. Saravanan, the Malaysian Deputy Minister of Youth and Sports said last Saturday.
“There is a definite competition among countries taking part in the Baton Run and this has been obvious from Brunei to Manila and from Laos to Yangon now. It’s a healthy competition and this augurs well with the message of wanting everyone to get involved with the SEA Games and not just the athletes,” he said.
The more than 2,000 years old Shwedagon Pagoda was the vantage point for the start at the People’s Park, with Datuk Saravanan passing the baton to H.E. Dr. Myint Htwe, Union Minister of Health and Sports, the Republic of the Union of Myanmar that signaled the start of the run.
To the sound of band troupes and calisthenics performance by school girls and boys, the baton was then passed over to the first runner Sann Naing, who ran the men’s 5000-m in the Rio 2016 Olympics, then went off to the blast of an air horn.
Buoyed by several hundred backup runners, the group then set off for the first changeover for SEA Games gold winning rower Win Htike in front of the Bahai Playground.
Boxer Wailin Aung, SEA Games gold medalist in 2013 in the under 75-kg category, then took up the baton at the second checkpoint at Kyartawa Junction, next to the Shwedagon Pagoda for the next pass at the Aung San Memorial Stadium.
Taekwondo exponent Yamin Kay Khaing, another SEA Games gold medalist in the women’s poomsae, then ran to the next checkpoint four at the Junction of U Wisara and Ahlone Road for Para athlete Kyaw Kyaw Win to complete the 11-km course round the city back to the finish line at the People’s Park.
Kyaw Win won Myanmar’s first gold medal at the ASEAN Para Games in 2015 in Singapore, by setting a new Games record in the Men’s 400m T44.
At the finish line, Dr. Myint Htwe passed the baton back to Datuk Saravanan, who then handed it to H.E Jukr Boon-Long, Ambassador-designate of Thailand to Myanmar.
Thailand will be the next venue of the Rising Together Baton Run slated for April 1.
Also present at the finish line were Mohd Haniff Abd Rahman, Ambassador of Malaysia to the Republic of the Union of Myanmar and Khin Maung Lwin, Joint Secretary-General of the Myanmar Olympic Committee and Advisor to the Ministry of Sport.
Also in attendance were representatives from the embassies of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Singapore and Vietnam.
“The Baton Run is a definite historical milestone in the history of the SEA Games and a very innovative idea from Malaysian Minister of Youth and Sports Brig. Gen Khairy Jamaluddin,” Myint Htwe said. “I hope that this Baton Run will be continued at the next SEA Games in the Philippines (2019), Vietnam (2021) and then Cambodia (2023).”
The Rising Together Baton Run is part of the legacy for the 29th SEA Games, which Malaysia will host next August 19-31.
The Baton Run will cover countries taking part in the SEA Games this year, It is expected to finish in Singapore on May 13 before the start of the Torch Run in Malaysia.– Malaysian Organizing Committee Kuala Lumpur Secretariat