Tonight more than 1,000 athletes and their entourage were welcomed to Bangkok by music and dance for the opening of the IFMA Youth muaythai World Championships!
In spite of the teeming monsoon rain outside the arena, the athletes were excited to see where they will compete. Before the ceremony began, they posed for photographs next to cardboard cut-outs of last year’s champions – some inspiration!
They also sat in a tuk-tuk, a traditional form of transport in Thailand for some funny pictures, and took pictures under the arch announcing to their friends at home where they are.
Up to 10 athletes from each team walked in behind the flag, waving cheekily and making thumbs-up signs. Other members of the team were able to sit and enjoy the spectacle inside the National Stadium.
They paraded in on red carpet past a VIP stage. The director of the Dept of Physical Education addressed all the athletes, showing his pride that so many young athletes from 79 countries travelled here from Bangkok, some of them with over 100 participants.
The Deputy Gov of Bangkok entered the arena in a tuk-tuk to loud cheers, and said Bangkok is very proud to host this event. She congratulated IFMA on the out-of-competition programme taking place over the next seven days. The World Youth Conference, the dinner cruise and the Gala night are all highlights the youth are looking forward to a lot.
Also on the stage were representatives from the Thai Department of Physical Education, and Bangkok City, as well as from the Sports Authority, the Sports Ministry, the CIty of Bangkok, and the National Olympic Committee of Thailand. And muaythai federation heads for each nation taking part, and IFMA Executive Board members including Vice-Presidents Sue Glassey and Mr Yo from Korea.
IFMA’s Stephan Fox addressed the athletes, welcoming them to their event. He also announced the presence of a refugee team who travelled from the Syrian border, and will compete under the IFMA flag. This is the first time such a team has been welcomed into the IFMA family.
He said: ‘We live in a time of uncertainty, we welcome this team and we believe that you the youth can learn and demonstrate that unity and diversity is possible.’
He also thanked Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul , Thai minister for sport who supported the event.
Some athletes took special pride in walking in all the flags of the IFMA partner organisations; including the ARISF flag after IFMA have become IOC-recognised, IWGA The World Games after the completion of a successful event last week in Poland, FISU as these young athletes look forward to further events and the SportAccord flags.
The stadium has doubled in size since last year, as last year IFMA used two rings, but this year due to an increase of 30% in athletes a third ring had to be added.
This shows not only the growing popularity of muaythai but also makes clear the youth development work of IFMA pays off.