ABG5

19:33 09/23/2016
 Kazakhstan and Thailand claimed the first two gold medals of the Asian Beach Games here today as athletes and delegates continue to arrive in the Central Vietnamese city on the eve of the Opening Ceremony.
 
Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah was among those to arrive this evening along with an array of major continental and world administrators.
 
International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Thomas Bach is also set to travel here tomorrow in time for the Opening Ceremony on completion of his inspection visit to 2018 Winter Olympic host, Pyeongchang.
 
Delegates and athletes are split across an array of hotels close to the two beach clusters in what is a far more compact format than that seen at the 2014 edition in Phuket.
 
The 14 sports, 22 disciplines and 172 events will be contested in one of four venue clusters located along a 7km stretch of the bay.
 
Fifteen sports are due to be held at the main cluster at Bien Dong Park: including beach soccer, basketball 3x3, aquatic sports and all martial arts.
 
Two other smaller hubs will be located close by, with only beach athletics and woodball situated slightly further southwards along the coast.
It comes as administrators grow in confidence that all venues will be fully operational after problems were caused last week by heavy rain across the host nation.
 
Ensuring good crowds and high visibility among the local population is now considered a key challenge.
 
This follows multiple changes to venues during the preparatory phase in order to reduce construction and logistical costs.
 
A special ceremony was also held today to officially open the Main Press Centre (MPC).
 
The organisers combined traditional Vietnamese drum and lion dance displays with more modern cheerleading-style performers to entertain a packed MPC, before a symbolic ribbon was cut by Macau's OCA Media Committee chairman Charles Lo.
 
Thailand's Benjaporn Sriphanomthorn secured the first gold medal of the Games in the women's five kilometres marathon swimming final.
 
She clocked 1 hour 5min 57sec to edge out Chinese duo Lei Shan and Li Yilin by the slender respective margins of 1.6 and 4.3 seconds.
 
Vitaliy Khudyakov of Kazakhstan then claimed the men's 10km spoils in more dominant fashion.
 
He clocked 2:02.07 to win by 2:48 from Wang Wenhao of China.
 
Saleh Mohammad claimed a superb bronze medal for Syria a further 1:25 behind.
 
No medals will be won tomorrow before action begins in earnest here on Saturday (September 25).
 
Competition will begin in beach kabaddi, however.
 
Focus will shift indoors as the OCA holds an Executive Committee meeting ahead of its General Assembly on Saturday.
 

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