MANILA, August 8- Culture and sports are among the biggest unifying factors in the family of Southeast Asian nations and also among other regions around the world.

Today, is also ASEAN Sports Day, coinciding the golden (50 years) jubilee anniversary celebration of ASEAN.

With this year’s theme “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World,” it hopes that ASEAN sustains its co-operation and actualizes the ASEAN Work Plan on Sports 2016-2020 which was endorsed during the Sixth ASEAN Senior Officials Meeting on Sports (SOMS-6) in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

The ASEAN Work Plan on Sports includes promoting ASEAN awareness through sporting activities, fostering ASEAN Community through mutually beneficial sports exchanges, strengthening a sense of resilience with healthy lifestyles, and increasing sports dynamism and competitiveness through capacity building and skills training.

In recognition of the ASEAN athletes and the accomplishments of the ASEAN Member States in the Olympics and Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro last year, the senior officials agreed to give the ASEAN athletes formal tribute and offer them ASEAN medals. They also encouraged ASEAN athletes to be speakers and source of inspiration at ASEAN events, especially those activities involving young people.

Through the ASEAN Work Plan on Sports 2016-2020, a proposal was welcomed of the Right To Play to collaborate with ASEAN on sports and development in the region, aimed at enhancing development of children and youth.

The ASEAN Work Plan also put emphasis on anti-doping efforts for athletes, coordination with international sports federations, referee trainings in specific sports and sports-cultural events in ASEAN.

Highlight the occasion, thousands of ASEAN athletes will assemble in Kuala Lumpur,starting August 18 for the 29th staging of Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) and for just a week, the 9th Para Games.

It started with the historic Rising Together Baton Run- to foster friendship through sports. The baton run spanned across the length and breath of key cities in the region.

SEA Games was formerly known as the SEAP (South East Asian Peninsular) Games, the inaugural event was first held in 1959. The countries which took part were Thailand, Burma, Malaysia, Singapore, South Vietnam and Laos with just 12 sports being competed.

In 1977, the Philippines joined the biennial meet.

Also, In preparation for the Olympics 2020, Japan has offered to work with ASEAN through the Sport for Tomorrow Program to provide specialists for capacity building for ASEAN Member States. (PNA)