THE exuberant Malaysian TIGers from the University of Malaya won the first event in the long-awaited 21st Triennial Intervarsity Games (TIG) last Sunday. They took both the men's and women's tug-of-war events right after the opening ceremony. More than 700 competitors representing the National University of Singapore, the Universitas Indonesia, the University of Malaya and the University of Hong Kong, marched into the Stanley Ho Sports Centre of the University of Hong Kong, after the dog mascot TIGer welcomed spectators. The TIG is held every three years in rotation by the four universities. Players from the universities compete in 13 events. The events are: athletics, badminton, basketball, hockey, handball, softball, volleyball, football, swimming, table-tennis, tennis, squash and tug-of-war. A fierce warm-up tug-of-war match in front of the officials and team members was the climax of the opening ceremony. The overwhelming cheering of University of Malaya was among the most impressive of all. Supporters applauded, sang and yelled, creating an exuberant and lively atmosphere that pushed the players to peak form. ''These are our traditional cheers for freshman orientation and it just comes to our minds,'' said Malaysian basketball player Lee Kah Khian. ''We believe that having high spirits is the most important thing,'' he said. ''As far as we have spirit, winning or losing is no longer the prime issue.'' For Professor Wang Gungwu, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Hong Kong, the traditional cheers of the Malaysian team brought back memories. ''It was great to see it again. I was a freshman in the University of Malaya in 1949 when the 1st TIG was held in Singapore and they have always been like this,'' Professor Wang said. The 600 overseas visitors who started arriving in Hong Kong on August 18 have been enjoying their stay at the University of Hong Kong. The only complaint has been about the food. ''It is not spicy enough for us. We wanted more spicy food,'' said Professor Abdul Rashid Ahmad, the team leader from the University of Malaya.