Lillehammer, Albertville, Lake Placid. Major sports events have a way of putting obscure places on the map. This was the hope harbored by Laos’s Communist leaders when they offered Vientiane, the capital, as the host of the Southeast Asian Games this December.

But so far the greatest legacy of the games is a record deficit that has forced the country to seek emergency loans and strike secretive deals that give away large swaths of land.

– Extracted from Thomas Fuller, “Laos Stumbles on Path to Sporting Glory”, The New York Times, 6 October 2009.

If any New Mandala readers who will be in Laos during the games want to provide updates (think of it as a kick-start to a career as a sports journalist) we would be delighted to hear from you.