MANILA, Philippines -- Despite a recent spike in new COVID-19 cases in Vietnam, organizers of the Hanoi Southeast Asian Games scheduled May 12 to 23 are making sure all other aspects of the staging are being taken care of.
Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino recently flew to Hanoi where representatives of the 10 other competing countries were given an overview of the preparations.
He said everything seemed to be on track.
"We did site visitations of the different venues. We also did inspections of the hotel for the athletes and officials," Tolentino told the online Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday.
Tolentino said the other member-countries are more focused now on their respective preparations, including the training of their athletes for the biennial competition.
"Vietnam has received our entries by names and we’re just waiting for the final confirmation," said Tolentino during the forum.
Tolentino confirmed that Filipino pole vault ace EJ Obiena, the Asian record holder and reigning SEA Games champion who is ranked No. 5 in the world, is in the list submitted by the POC.
Organizers, the POC chief said, have yet to decide whether they would allow fans and spectators for the SEA Games due to the recent COVID-19 surge in Vietnam which recorded a seven-day average of 171,446 cases last week.
"But it’s declining now. In fact, they are now open to tourists," said Tolentino, adding that only proof of vaccination or booster shots are needed by foreign delegates to the 31st SEA Games.
"We just need to be extra careful," said Tolentino, who is looking at a Philippine delegation of 979, including officials. He said it’s up to the PSC to bring the delegation to Vietnam.
Tolentino said there are only a couple of ways to get to Vietnam from Manila – either via Singapore Airlines or Philippine Airlines. The PSC is looking at booking a chartered flight for Team Philippines.
During the forum, Tolentino thanked the Department of Foreign Affairs for extending help to 103 members of Team Philippines who either applied for new passports or sought renewals.
"We wrote the Foreign Affairs and they responded by accommodating us," said Tolentino.
Malaysia, based on early information, is sending close to 800 athletes, more than the 656 which the Philippines is fielding. There is no information yet on the size of the delegations from Thailand or Indonesia.
"Hindi pa natin alam," added Tolentino, who remains confident the Philippines can put up a good fight in defending the overall title it won when it hosted the SEA Games in 2019.