One of the surprise winners at the recent Olympic Games in Beijing was 17 year old Buttree Puedpong (Nong Song) from Samut Prakan. She won a silver medal for taekwondo. Early this morning, she made a triumphant return to her home city on the top of a London double-decker bus. Broadcasting this event live was the morning breakfast show “Rueang Lao Chao Ni” on Channel 3. The presenters of the show were Sorayut Suthatsanachinda and Kritika Sakmani. The show started at 6.15 a.m. on a closed set on the balcony of a government building overlooking the Chao Phraya River. As I was there early, I was able to bluff my way onto this set to see first hand a live broadcast.
The first part of the programme was about national news. It was the usual breakfast show style with showing the headlines in the newspapers and video clips of major events from the day before. They started the show by introducing Samut Prakan and several times they commented on the large container ships passing behind them. On the low table in front of them there were newspapers and red coffee cups with the Nescaffe logos. Obviously they are sponsors. I have never seen them drink from them so always presumed that the cups were empty. But they did have a sip during the commercial breaks. In front of them, under the cameras, were three monitors. From left to right they showed live pictures from: Channel 7, Channel 3 and Channel NBT. I am not sure if that was normal. Today they were expecting a major event to break in the morning so probably wanted to keep an eye on their rivals. In fact, the end of the live broadcast was interrupted by the public address by Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej at 7.30 a.m. The rest of the show was then shown in a small inset window.
Nong Song, which means “number two”, was due to arrive shortly after 7 a.m. So, I quietly left the set and went looking for the red bus which was parked around the corner. They were obviously waiting for the signal. The governor of Samut Prakan was there and I managed to get some photos of them together. I also climbed up to the top of the bus to take some pictures from up there. A large sign on the bus proclaimed it came from “Jesada Technik Museum” in Nakhonchairsri. I haven’t been to this outdoor museum of vintage cars yet but it is certainly on my list. Last year they were hoping to add a Russian submarine to their collection but it unfortunately sank on its way to Thailand. In this picture, Nong Song can bee seen at the top of the bus. She is passing some of the teachers and students from my school. Nong Song used to be a student at our school for nine years and will apparently do a return visit next week.
By this time the show hosts had left their outdoor set up on the balcony and were waiting on a stage on the river front. There were several thousand local people waiting to greet the Olympic heroine and so it took a while for them to fight their way through the crowd. Up on stage she was the interviewed along with two other Thai athletes. Nong Song has already been on a few tv shows but she was still nervous and unsure of how to answer the questions properly. At one time she was asked where she was born and replied “in a hospital”! But, she is still young even though she is now 18 years old. She wasn’t really expecting to compete in the Beijing Olympics and thought her debut would be at the London Olympics in 2012. She still has a long career ahead of her.
There were so many people trying to take pictures I decided to back away and I went back up to the balcony, where the breakfast show started, to get some wide shots of the event as it unfolded. After another commercial break, it came the time for the cheques to be presented to the Olympic champions. Nong Song was getting cheques for like 50,000 baht and even 100,000 baht several times. She is now easily a millionaire. I believe the government will also now pay her a salary of 20,000 baht a month for life. It is great that they get so much support, though I would much prefer if they spent some of this money in developing sports programmes for the youth. Sport is an excellent way to keep the youth out of trouble and gives them meaning to their life. People like Nong Song are an excellent source of inspiration for our youth. She started learning taekwondo at our school and hopeful this will encourage more people to take sport more seriously. If she can do it then so can they.