Rituals of the Masculine State

Sports festivals, gender and power in Laos and Southeast Asia

Authored by: Simon Creak

Routledge Handbook of Sport, Gender and Sexuality

Print publication date:  February  2014
Online publication date:  March  2014

Print ISBN: 9780415522533
eBook ISBN: 9780203121375
Adobe ISBN: 9781136326967


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In December 2005 the seventh National Games opened in the city of Savannakhet in Laos, a small land-locked country in mainland Southeast Asia, ruled since 1975 by a Leninist one-party state. Based on the familiar Olympic format, the opening ceremony’s local features made it meaningful for the Lao audience. One of these was a giant billboard of revolutionary leader Kaysone Phomvihane (1920–1992), a native of Savannakhet, beaming benevolently at the party leaders seated opposite and the common folks below. Reflecting on-going efforts by the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party to create a leadership cult around Kaysone, the entire event was transformed into what might better be called the Kaysone Games. 1 A second local touch was a trio of women attired colourfully in the traditional dress of lao lum (lowland Lao), lao thoeng (Lao of the mountain slopes) and lao sung (Lao of the mountain tops), mirroring Laos’s officially obsolete but still popular trinomial ethnic classification system. Striking a vivid contrast with the resplendent white of the uniformed military marching band, behind which they amiably sauntered, the three women led the athlete’s procession carrying a banner pronouncing: ‘Rejoice the VIIth National Games, Savannakhet, 13–21 December 2005’.

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