The King was also the patron of several sporting events and associations.
When he was young, he took part in a number of sports including sailing, badminton and tennis.
His Majesty was the first Thai monarch to compete in an international sporting event when he took part in sailing at the Southeast Asian Peninsular (SEAP) Games (now the SEA Games) in 1967.
The King and his daughter Princess Ubolratana were joint winners in the OK dinghy class of the sailing tournament which was held off Pattaya.
His Majesty’s achievement was more remarkable because he built his own boat.
He claimed the title on Dec 16 which has since been Thailand’s National Sports Day.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) awarded him the Insignia of the Olympic Order in 1987 and presented him with the Lalounis Cup in 2001 for his leading role in supporting and promoting sports.
In 2012, the King received the President’s Medal from the Badminton World Federation for his contribution to the sport.
“All sports must be played according to the rules,” the King once said.
On another occasion, he said: “Sports are important in the development of the country and people.”
His Majesty sponsored several athletes including Charoen Wattanasin, one of Thailand’s greatest ever badminton players who reached the All-England final twice.
In the 1960s, Charoen, who often played badminton with the King, went to Liverpool University on a business management scholarship given by His Majesty.
In 2003, snooker player Noppadol Saengnil won a national ranking event in impressive style.
Noppadol earned the right to participate in the 2003-2004 Challenge Tour in Britain through a keenly contested Asian qualifying school, but his dream of playing professionally was being hampered by a lack of funds.
His Majesty, who had seen Noppadol play on TV, awarded the young player a grant from his personal funds to ensure that the rising snooker star would be able to participate in the Challenge Tour that season.
The King always encouraged athletes to put the sporting spirit first, and strive for victory and friendship.
Because of His Majesty’s involvement in sports, several sporting events are named the King’s Cup in honour of the monarch, including golf, boxing and football.
His Majesty inspired and encouraged a large number of Thai athletes to victories.
It became a tradition that Thai athletes would lift a portrait of the King after their success including Olympic boxing champions Somluck Kamsing (1996), Manus Boonjumnong (2004) and Somjit Jongjohor (2008).
After his Olympic success in Bejing, Somjit revealed that he carried an amulet of the King in monkhood.
“The King is already holy – he is holier in the monkhood,” said Somjit.
The King’s love for sports knew no bounds and it was his passionate involvement from the hospital bed that inspired the Thai national football team to Southeast Asian glory in 2014.
Thailand came from 3-0 behind to lose 3-2 in the second leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup final against Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.
However, the result was enough for coach Kiatisak Senamuang’s men to end a 12-year title drought in the biennial championship after a 2-0 home win in the first leg.
Prof Udom Kachintorn, dean of Siriraj Hospital’s Faculty of Medicine, said the King, who was staying at the hospital at that time, watched both legs of the final on TV.
“In the first leg, the King woke up to watch the second half. His Majesty slept in the afternoon and woke up at 7pm [kick-off time] to watch the second leg,” the doctor said.
“When Thailand trailed 2-0 at half-time, the King asked his principal private secretary to phone Kasem Jariyawatwong, the team manager, to tell him that the King was watching the match and wanted to give them moral support.”
After Thailand won the title, the King smiled and said “brilliant”, according to Prof Udom.
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