MANILA, Philippines -- Vietnam has been given an ultimatum to decide on whether it will push through with the 31st Southeast Asian Games next year, Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Rep. Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino revealed.
The SEA Games were originally scheduled for December but postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The SEA Games Federation has since given Vietnam an ultimatum in October to decide whether to hold the biennial event in 2022, or cancel it outright.
"The consensus was for Vietnam to make a decision. Otherwise, the 31st SEA Games would be canceled," said Tolentino.
The federation met virtually last Friday. According to Tolentino, they decided that a late May 2022 schedule was the most convenient and logical for the 11 member-countries.
"There are three major Asian and two international competitions in 2022. That leaves Vietnam a very small window to hold the SEA Games," he explained.
The Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games are scheduled from March 10 to 20 in Thailand, while the Asian Games are set for September 10 to 25 in Hangzhou, China. The Asian Youth Games will be held in Shantou, China on December 20 to 28.
Meanwhile, the Beijing Winter Olympics will take place from February 4 to 20, and the IOC-sanctioned World Games are from July 7 to 22 in Birmingham, Alabama.
"All these five competitions are major events. They are staged once every four years," said Tolentino.
The SEA Games Federation is thus keenly awaiting the decision of Vietnam, especially as it will have an impact on the 2023 edition of the event that is set in Cambodia.
"Cambodia, the host of the 32nd SEA Games, decided to hold the competitions in February 2023, after the Chinese New Year for that year," Tolentino said. "That's the reason why Vietnam could only have until the latter part of May to host."
Cambodia has emphasized that it needs its own window to guarantee a successful hosting of the Games. If Vietnam pushes through with the SEA Games in May 2022, that gives Cambodia eight months to prepare for what will be its maiden hosting.
"We understand the situation of Cambodia because as hosts in 2019, we had two years at least to prepare for our successful campaign and hosting," Tolentino said.
"Cambodia wants to excel in its hosting debut and, in fact, all infrastructure and collaterals for the 32nd SEA Games are ready," he added.
If the SEA Games in Hanoi are canceled, Vietnam's next chance to host will be in 2027.
"Thailand is host of the 33rd edition in 2025 and as of now, Laos or Brunei has yet to confirm for 2027," said Tolentino. "If these two countries pull back, then Vietnam gets its turn back."