SEA Games opening ceremony host sorry for 'insensitive' comment

SINGAPORE - A presenter at Singapore's Southeast Asian (SEA) Games' opening ceremony has apologized after she shocked onlookers by mocking a small, ethnic Indian girl about her accent.

TV personality and actress Sharon Au prompted a minor outcry after she approached the girl, who was sitting in the crowd with an older man, presumably her father.

"What (vat) happened, what happened?" she laughed, wobbling her head from side to side, after the girl stumbled as she tried to repeat a line welcoming athletes to the Games.

Au, who is ethnic Chinese, also teased the girl about her name, Kavya, calling her "caviar" instead.

The actress insisted her comments at Friday's ceremony were merely an attempt at humor as she apologized for the exchange.

"Some of you may have watched the pre-show and heard my attempt at mimicking an Indian accent," she posted on her Facebook page.

"It was intended to be comic but in hindsight I realize how insensitive it was. I sincerely apologize to those whom I've inadvertently offended."

Au is a well-known personality in Singapore who has been cast to play the wife of late strongman leader Lee Kuan Yew, who died in March, in "The LKY Musical".

Singapore, which is 74% ethnic Chinese, 13 percent Malay and 9% Indian, has strict laws on stirring communal tensions after bloody race riots in the 1960s.

The ceremony incident drew a strong response on social media as the 11-nation, 36-sport SEA Games got underway with its first full day of competition on Saturday.

"A great start destroyed by a single racist act from host Sharon Au. Will we ever learn?" posted one Twitter user. -