The curious domination of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games by host nations appears set to continue at this year's edition, which officially opens today in northeast Thailand.
The games may open today, but already a slew of medals have been awarded in events that preceded the opening ceremonies and Thailand leads with 18 gold.
The host nation is targeting 150 gold medals for the games, seeking to become the fourth consecutive host to dominate following the Philippines in 2005, Vietnam in 2003 and Malaysia in 2001.
The cause of host domination is moot, but a clue may be gained from the fact that Thailand was so outraged about officiating that favored the Philippines in 2005 that it threatened to elevate the issue into a diplomatic incident.
Thailand won 14 of the 34 gold medals in shooting this week, which preceded the games proper to avoid a clash with the Asian Shooting Championships in Kuwait, and won all four golds on offer in aerobics yesterday.
Singapore prevented a Thai gold sweep on Wednesday by winning gold in the men's and women's team table tennis.
The 24th SEA Games is being held in the northeastern Thailand city of Nakhon Ratchasima -- more commonly known as Korat -- which has a population numbering more than 2 million people in the city and surrounding settlements.
It is the sixth time Thailand has hosted the SEA Games, which is a biannual event contested between Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, East Timor and Brunei-Darrusalam.
The first SEA Games in 1959 had 12 sports and 657 athletes, but has since ballooned to 45 events with 6,541 athletes for this year's event.
With the Olympic Games in Beijing beckoning, most attention in Korat will be on those harboring genuine Olympic medal hopes.
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