Vietnam was given a week to reconsider its plan to delay the staging of 30th Southeast Asian Games that was scheduled to open in November following a virtual meeting of the SEA Games Federation Council on Wednesday.
This was the major development emerging from the emergency session, according to Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, who had opposed the Vietnamese move along with sports officials from seven other member countries of the 11-nation federation.
“The final decision (regarding the fate of the Southeast Asian Games) will be known next week,” said Tolentino, who announced during the POC general assembly meeting last Tuesday that he was against postponing the regional sportsfest to July next year, as expressed by the Vietnamese hosts.
The POC chief said others disagreeing with the postponement were the countries of Brunei, Cambodia, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand and Timor Leste, according to the POC chief, while Myanmar, which is in the state of political turmoil, agreed to the proposal and Laos remained neutral.
Before the meeting, overseas reports said that the Vietnam Olympic Committee wrote its regional counterparts informing them that it decided to reschedule the Games owing to the sudden surge of COVID-19 cases in Hanoi and neighboring areas where the 40 sports would be staged.
Hours before the meeting, the Khmer Times posted on its website that the Cambodian Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee received a letter from the Vietnam Olympic Committee to inform the former that it had decided to postpone the Games.
In the report, the Vietnamese cited the surge of COVID-19 cases in the host country as the reason for delaying the meet, adding that a similar letter was also given to the VOC’s counterparts, although the story did not say when it was given.
After consultations with other regional sports leaders, Tolentino said postponing the Games would not be wise, considering the heavy international sports schedule in 2021 featuring, among others, the Asian Games, the Winter Olympic Games, Asian Indoor Martial Games and Commonwealth Games.
He also pointed out that a majority of athletes in the region had also begun training for the SEA Games, adding that the Philippine Sports Commission had already set aside P200 million for the Philippine participation and build-up for the event.
Based on feedback he had from the meeting, “the hosts were also reluctant to postpone the Games because all the structures and venues are already complete, but the rise in cases has raised an alarm.”
Tolentino, however, rued: “it is still the Vietnam government that had the final say on the matter in the staging of the SEA Games.”
PSC commissioner Ramon Fernandez, the SEA Games chef de mission, said the government sports agency would respect Vietnam’s decision either way.
“If the SEA Games is postponed, this may give our athletes a longer time to prepare,” said Fernandez, noting that the pandemic has also disrupted the actual workouts of the country’s bets to the meet.