By HAU DINH
HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — The Southeast Asian Games have officially kicked off with a mask-optional opening ceremony in Vietnam’s capital, the first major gathering in the country since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. Athletes from 11 nations paraded and about 600 artists performed traditional acts and dances in My Dinh national stadium, which was filled with about 20,000 spectators and officials. The two-week games have drawn about 5,000 athletes competing in 40 sports, including Olympics standard events as well as traditional games and martial arts popular in the region, such as Vovinam and Muay Thai. The biennial games were originally scheduled last December but were postponed due to COVID-19.