Amid postponement talk, SEA Games must go on, says PH Olympic body head

Manolo Pedralvez

Posted at Jun 09 2021 07:27 AM | Updated as of Jun 09 2021 08:57 AM

Together with several other participating nations, the Philippines will decline the plan by Vietnam to postpone the 31st Southeast Asian Games opening in Hanoi in November during the SEA Games Federation Council virtual meeting on Wednesday. 

“Together with the other SEA Games countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and others we have agreed to disagree with the Vietnamese proposal to postpone the SEA Games” Philippine Olympic Committee president and Tagaytay Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino announced Tuesday during the POC general assembly meeting. 

“This will be our united stand during our meeting (of the SEA Games Federation) tomorrow,” Tolentino told the members of the local Olympic body who were present at the East Ocean Restaurant in Paranaque as well those who attended the affair online.

“Wala pong official announcement regarding the postponement of the SEA Games,” the POC chief stressed after several news reports outside the country said that that Vietnam was keen on delaying the SEA Games set November 21 to December 2 in Hanoi arising from the spike of COVID-19 cases there.

Quoting an unidentified source, T. Vignesh of the Malaysian news website reported Monday that the “SEA Games in Hanoi is off.”

“They (the Vietnamese SEAG organizers) have written to all the NOCs about the postponement and on June 9, they will have a virtual meeting to elaborate more on the matter,” the anonymous source told the writer.

“A new date has not been decided yet, but I believe that it will be updated at the meeting,” the source added.

The report bared that Vietnam wanted to reschedule the hosting of the regional meet it was staging for the second time after 18 years to March 2022.

The planned postponement of the SEA Games was also reported last Monday on its website by the widely circulated and well respected Singapore Straits Times.

“The 31st SEA Games, which is scheduled to take place from Nov 21 through Dec 2 in Hanoi, looks set to be postponed due to the rising COVID-19 cases in Vietnam and Southeast Asia,” said the report filed by Sazali Abdul Aziz. 

Ahead of the SEAG Federation virtual meeting, Tolentino bared that the Vietnam SEAG Organizing Committee sent a survey form to all the 11 SEA members with the lone question on “whether you want to postpone the SEA Games or not.” The two boxes that were to be ticked were “Agree” or “Disagree,” he said.

The reply to the survey was to be submitted before the meeting, according to Tolentino, who played a key role in the highly successful staging of the 30th SEA Games in the Philippines two years ago.

The event featured a staggering 56 sports and 530 events, the biggest number yet in both categories, and drew nearly 10,000 athletes and officials.

Filipino campaigners capitalized on the hometown edge to the hilt, garnering 149 gold, 117 silver and 121 bronze medals on the way to capturing the overall championship. 

“Ang ibig pong sabihin natin ay hindi po kami papayag na ma-postpone ang SEA Games (What it means is that we will not agree to the postponement of the SEA Games),” Tolentino said after his consultations with other regional sports officials.

In taking a common stand, the POC honcho cited several reasons why rescheduling the Games was ill-advised.

“One of them is the fact that the budget for the training and participation for the SEA Games has already been set. Mahirap pong baguhin iyon (This cannot be changed),” noted Tolentino.

Without elaborating, he acknowledged the fact that the country’s build-up and participation in the biennial meet was funded by the Philippine Sport Commission, which allots and approves the budgets for these international competitions. 

Tolentino said that postponing the SEA Games would be demoralizing for the national athletes from the 11 competing countries “who have already sacrificed their time and effort to compete in Hanoi,”

He likewise mentioned that there were other huge international competitions in 2022 such as the Asian Games, Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, Winter Olympic Games and the Commonwealth Games, which would make it nearly impossible to insert the SEA Games into the busy schedule. 

 “Singapore and Malaysia consider the Commonwealth Games to be bigger than the SEA Games while Cambodia is against the postponement since they have already begun preparing for the hosting of the event in 2023,” Tolentino pointed out.


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