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See ASEAN’s cultural identity through logos and mascots of Southeast Asian (SEA) Games

Updated: May 10, 2023

The Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) is a multi-sport event held every two years, featuring athletes from Southeast Asian countries. The 2023 SEA Games is the 32nd SEA Games held from 5 to 17 May 2023 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Interestingly, the SEA Games are not only about sports but also provide a window into the historical and cultural heritage of the region. The logos and mascots of SEA Games are important symbols that highlight the host country's unique identity and cultural heritage, while promoting unity and sportsmanship among the participating nations. The mascot tradition began in 1985 with a white elephant named "Chang" for the games held in Thailand. Since then, each host country has created its own mascot, often based on a local animal or cultural symbol. While the SEA Games logos have evolved over the years since the inaugural games in 1959. The first logo featured a flame and 11 intertwined rings, representing the 11 participating countries. Subsequent logos featured variations of the rings and torch, with different colors and designs.


The logo of the 1995 SEA Games in Thailand is an image of a Bo Sang umbrella which symbolises the Bo Sang Village of Chiang Mai, as a famous province for the making of exquisitely hand made and painted umbrellas. The mascot represents a Siamese cat named Sawasdee (Thai: สวัสดี) who takes a Bo Sang umbrella with him. The Siamese cat is one of the several varieties of cat native to Thailand. As a mascot, its name Sawasdee is also a word often spoken in Thai as a greeting or farewell in Thailand.


The 1999 SEA Games held in Bandar Seri Begawan featured a logo with the traditional Bruneian boat or perahu and was inspired by the country's maritime heritage. The mascot was a hornbill, which is a significant bird in Brunei's culture.


The 22nd SEA Games in Vietnam introduced a mascot named "Trâu Vàng" in 2003, which was a golden water buffalo designed by artist Nguyen Thai Hung. Described as a gentle, industrious, wise, faithful, and harmonious animal in nature, the buffalo resembles the water and rice civilisation in Vietnam, as well as in other Southeast Asian countries. To the Vietnamese people, the Golden Buffalo symbolises a desire for abundant harvest, prosperity, happiness, power, and the Vietnamese martial spirit as well as open–heartedness, joy, and hospitality of the host country. The logo of this edition is a stylisation of a legendary bird named "Chim Lac," a typical antiquity of the ancient Dong Son Vietnamese culture. The Emblem is composed of harmonious and strong curves that resembles movement and strength upwards represents the Olympic Spirit: "Faster, Higher and Stronger".


The 2009 SEA Games in Vientiane had a logo showcasing the That Luang stupa, a national symbol of the country, surrounded by five circles representing the five pillars of the ASEAN community. The mascot was a cartoon deer, named Champa, which represents peace and happiness.


The 26th SEA Games in Indonesia introduced mascot named Modo and Modi in 2011, a pair of Komodo dragons wearing a traditional Indonesian costume, batik sarong and kebaya. "Modo" is a short name for Komodo, while "Modo-Modi" is a modified spelling of Muda-Mudi which means "youth" in Indonesian language, derived from pemuda (male youth) and pemudi (female youth). The logo of that edition featured a Garuda, Indonesia's national bird, in navy blue, gold and white colors, reflecting the spirit of sportsmanship and unity.


The logo of the 2013 Southeast Asian Games is an image of the map of Myanmar. Yellow, green and red, the national colors on Myanmar's National Flag, represents Myanmar as the games' host nation. The yellow circle represents equality and fraternity, green color represents love of nature and the green economy, while the red color represents courage and hard-working nature of Myanmar. The circular shape represents complete perfection and endless prosperity among the Southeast Asian countries. The official mascot of the 2013 Southeast Asian Games is a couple of owls named Shwe Yoe and Ma Moe. The owls are considered lucky charms in Burmese tradition. The owl is globally taken to be the wisest, calmest, and balanced animal.


The 28th SEA Games in Singapore introduced their mascot, a lion named Nila, in 2015. The mascot's name is derived from the phrase "ni la" which means "this is it" in Malay language. The logo of that edition was a red dot resembling Singapore's national flag, with a lion head shaped like a flame symbolizing fiery passion and spirit.


The 29th SEA Games in Malaysia showcased "Rimau," a Malayan tiger, as its mascot in 2017. The idea behind this mascot was to represent Malaysia's national animal and its strength, courage, and agility in sports. The logo of that edition featured a tiger's paw, with colorful stripes representing unity and diversity.


The 30th SEA Games in the Philippines introduced a mascot called "Pami" in 2019, which was inspired by the Philippine eagle. Its name is derived from "pamilya" which means family in Filipino language. The logo of that edition featured a golden sun with 11 rays representing the 11 participating countries, along with an eagle's head symbolizing strength and freedom.


The logo of the 2023 SEA Games in Phnom Penh features the famous Angkor Wat temple complex, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mascot design consists of two rabbits wearing Bokator attire; a female in red named Rumduol (រំដួល) and a male in blue named Borey (បុរី). Red and blue are colors from the Cambodian flag.

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