A little over a year ago the world's attention went to a cave in northern Thailand where 12 boys and a coach from the Wild Boars youth soccer team went missing, flood waters stranding them underground for more than two weeks.
What ensued was blockbuster movie-worthy, the boys and their coach making a miraculous escape thanks to the help of a crack multinational rescue team, with the world following every twist, turn and tragedy in the story, Kyodo News reports.
Narongsak Osottanakorn, who headed the Tham Luang cave rescue operation as outgoing Chiang Rai governor, reflected in an interview with Kyodo News on the extreme pressure of the moment.
When I announced the mission was over, I felt relieved, no longer having to handle the expectation of the whole world," Narongsak said, still no doubt saddened by the loss of one of the Thai rescuers to the cave's waters.
I knew the chance of success was only 50 percent, but I had to tell the public I expected a 100 percent chance of success. It was more than pressure, it was like the whole world was on my shoulders," he remembered.
Now, the expectation has turned to enthusiasm, with the boys' story purchased for a film and the local community coming together to both celebrate a new sense of togetherness, all while people in the area do their best to make financial hay.
Three of the boys and their coach who were stateless were granted Thai citizenship and received passports after their rescue, giving them a more secure future. They were also able to accept invitations to Argentina for the 2018 Summer Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires, as well as to Britain and the United States.
Twelve months later, the incident, which has come to be known as Miracle at Tham Luang, has taken the young soccer players to places and given them opportunities they would never have imagined, while the local community and economy has been energized by the global spotlight.
They set up a company called "13 Tham Luang Co." to manage and protect their copyright control over the depiction of their now-famous subterranean stay.
The company, which is headed by coach Ekkapol Chantawong, in April reached a deal with video streaming giant Netflix to make a mini-series for which each of the Wild Boars will be paid 2-3 million baht ($65,000-97,000), according to local media reports.
One of the boys, Adul Sam-on, who recently turned 15, was recognized by Middlebury College in the U.S. state of Vermont in May for helping communicate with British divers who discovered the group, despite being weak after spending more than seven days in the cave.
But it is not just the boys who are making the best of what could have been a terrible tragedy.
The cave itself remains closed to the public, but its vicinity is undergoing a transformation to become one of Chiang Rai Province's major tourist attractions.
An art gallery has been built outside the cave. Opened for visitors last December, it exhibits three large paintings that show scenes of the rescue and other moments.
Source: Kazinform News Agency
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