The National Danish Performance Team put their message out loud and clear during their visit to Thailand this January 2022. “We move the world!”
The National Danish Performance Team arrived in Thailand already on the 23rd of December, but went straight into hiding in a small hotel in Jomtien. Flying in from Uruguay, the 28 gymnasts and their five leaders had to quarantine for a week there – a week that ended with a New Year’s Eve Party. A good one, they laugh!
Next morning, the 1st of January they managed to roll their huge red suitcases over to a waiting bus, before they went silent for the next many hours. That evening they checked into a hotel in Khon Kaen. That was Day 1 of the year 2022.
Next morning the first changes to their tour of Isaan waited. The workshop at Khon Kaen University with Physical Education students and highschool students from neighboring schools was canceled. Covid concerns. An alternative activity for the afternoon was hastily arranged: In a corner of the most well-known night market in Khon Kaen, the team was allowed to practice.
Among the people that watched the training was the young female owner of the market who asked if the team could make a real evening performance one of the coming days. But the schedule was tight, so it was not possible.
The next morning, a show in front of Central Plaza in Udonthani an hours drive further north had been arranged by the local Danish social media influencer Kjeld Holm. The show was a surprise to shoppers because there had been very little time to promote the event. But it was the first of several public shows of Danish gymnastics – both rhythmic and jumping and a good warmup.
Surprisingly, a workshop at Udonthani Rajabhat the next day with 90 kids from nearby highschools was not canceled. The workshop was watched, but not joined, by 20 teachers and staff from the local Department of Physical Education – all seriously worried if they had made a mistake in allowing this to go on. But it seemed that the overwhelming enthusiasm of the kids, whose energy had been bottled up for the past 18 months, kept them from stopping the fun. Instead they called for a break and announced a ban on sharing any photos from the event on social media. Admiringly pragmatic.
During the workshop, the young Danes visited in batches of 10 the Udonthani Immigration Police station together with Kjeld Holm where they got a 1-month long extension of their stay in Thailand before returning to the kids.
The next workshop was supposed to take place in Sakon Nakhon, the home town of Raindrop Foundation, but was canceled. Covid concerns. That left the schedule open for a few adjustments. A phone call later, the plan was changed to instead stage a show on the last day of their tour of Isaan at that Ton Tann Market in Khon Kaen, where they had been training four days before.
But the visit to Nongkhai to see the impressive Mekong River was still on the next morning. And so was the visit in the afternoon to the Raindrop Foundation Centre outside of Sakon Nakhon. The last hour before arriving at the Raindrop Centre, editor Gregers Moller from ScandAsia told the adventurous life story of the founder, the former Thai Senator Pensak Howitz who was also at one time the wife of Denmark’s Ambassador to Thailand. At the center, Gregers Moller showed around and explained about the plans to establish a Danish Gymnastics College on the premises to introduce gymnastics and set up teams at the local schools around the province.
That evening over dinner, the Director General of the Provincial Administration heard about the plans and spontaneously invited the team – after their next ten days in Bangkok – to come up and stay for free at a sports school that he had established where they could have a training camp and at the same time do workshops with the students. He would send a bus to pick them up in Bangkok and a truck for the equipment.
The next day started with sightseeing in Sakon Nakhon, a boat ride on the vast lake of the city and finally a visit to the school, where they had been invited to come and stay. Then they left for Khon Kaen.
After a smashing show at Ton Taan Market the team was finally out of their seemingly endless energy and settled in for a long night on the bus, rolling through the night to Bangkok, where they were expected for breakfast at Mermaid Hotel. Here they were after breakfast picked up two by two by members of the Danish and Thai-Danish community who had volunteered to be their hosts for the weekend.
The deal was that the host families should return them on Sunday morning to the Danish Embassy, where Ambassador Jon Thorgaard would be waiting with a great and very Danish breakfast. But last minute, the host families’ participation had to be canceled. Covid concerns. For the same reason, the Gymnastics Association of Thailand had also canceled their event together with the young Danes later that same Sunday, one of the three planned major shows in Bangkok.
The cancellation was a disappointment but also an opportunity to do something more spectacular: That afternoon, the young Danes instead staged an impressive show in the last sunlight of the day on the quay of Asiatique, the old warehouses of the Danish East Asiatic Company. The Danish Ambassador Jon Thorgaard opened the show together with the Team Leader Bie Andersen. Moored by the quay was a replica of the Thoon Kramom, the ship that the EAC founder HN Andersen had sailed to England with a cargo of teak that became the start of the company.
It was a special moment for both the Thais and the Danes present when the Danish gymnasts opened the show by carrying in the flags of both nations. They then first played the Thai national anthem before singing together loud and clear the Danish “Der er et yndigt land”. Wow!
The next day was the first workshop in Bangkok, held at Bangkok Pattana International School while staying in style at Mermaid Hotel. This was a great success but unfortunately a similar event two days later at another school was canceled. Covid concerns. The next couple of days were instead open for some training at the conveniently located Swedish fitness studio Fitness 24seven at Nana and a bit of sightseeing in Bangkok.
Day by day, the big Gala Show of the Thailand Tour, scheduled for Thursday 13th of January, came closer and closer. Everybody seemed to expect a cancellation because of Covid concerns. But it didn’t happen. Last minute, a feverish attempt to market the event brought in a few Thai gymnastics enthusiasts, but eventually a small crowd of less than seventy people watched the fabulous show in the stadium with seats for thousands. The opening was presided over as planned by the Director General of the Physical Education Department Dr. Niwas Limsuknirunt and the Danish Ambassador Mr. Jon Thorgaard.
Next big event was a different story. The department store ICONSIAM were proudly hosting the Danish performance team on Saturday afternoon shortly before their regular water fountain show in front of the Chao Phraya river. VIP seats had been prepared for all the supporters of the team during their visit to Thailand and most of the host families had picked this day to see the performance of their young guests. They were joined by hundreds of Thais who had seen the show advertised on social media by ICONSIAM.
That was the culmination of well over two weeks of a hectic display of the best from the Danish cultural tradition of sports as a broad, social activity.
And still there was more. NIST International School in Bangkok had on Sunday invited the team to conduct a workshop with their students and top it off with a mini-show with extracts from the big shows the days before. Another great day!
The next two weeks, the Danes and their leaders accepted the invitation to hold their training camp at the Rom Sai Witthaya school in Sakon Nakhon. Here, they were accommodated six by six in dormitory rooms with brand new mattresses and duvets laid out on the floor. And on the second day they held the first workshop with the students and staged a mini-show for the Director General who had come out to see for himself that all was going well.
Because of Covid concerns, it is not clear which country will be their next. The virus keeps playing around with any attempt to make a plan. Team Leader Bie Andersen puts it like this:
“People keep asking me if we have a Plan B. But the truth is, we ran out of characters in the alphabet a long time ago!”