SEA Games organisers counter mounting criticism

The Philippines’ Southeast Asian Games Organising Committee (Phisgoc) has moved to offer assurances over the state of preparations for the forthcoming event, amid mounting criticism on multiple fronts.

The 2019 SEA Games are due to commence in the country on Saturday, but organisers have been faced with strong criticism over the state of the venues, food provision for athletes, logistics and accommodation, issues that have even led to the intervention of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The multi-sport event will run through to December 11 in Clark, Manila and Subic, with organisers having to deal with the complexities of staging a record 56 sports across dozens of venues. Speaking today (Wednesday), Phisgoc chief operating officer Ramon Suzara said the issues complained about have all been dealt with days before the opening ceremony at Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.

“Two days ago we had a chef de mission meeting, the first one here, and we tackled all the issues, the complaints, the requests and problems of the chef de mission and we have resolved everything,” Suzara said, according to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper.

“We want to put a rest on this. This is very normal. All of the athletes, media, always before the opening ceremony there are a lot of adjustments not only here but also in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia. There are a lot of Games that you wait two hours, three hours in the airport so let’s help each other.”

Preparations for the Games have included the development of a major sports complex, featuring an athletics stadium and aquatics centre, in New Clark City. This is the setting for a cauldron, which at a cost of PHP50m (£764,000/€894,000/$984,000) has also been the cause of controversy.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo yesterday said that Duterte has taken note of the raft of negative reports surrounding the Games. Panelo said, according to the Rappler website: “The President is not pleased (with) what he’s been hearing about certain snafus, certain delays, certain allegations of athletes not being fed properly, athletes arriving late or not on time delivered to their places of rest or residence. He’s displeased.

“There were allegations of fraud coming out in the papers. He doesn’t like that. He wants to investigate that.”