Chance for Malaysia to produce a template for future SEA Games

JUST slightly over a month ago, this scribe wrote on this column questioning Malaysia’s decision to snub the offer by the Commonwealth Games Federation (CGF) to host the 2026 Commonwealth Games, arguing that it was indeed a missed opportunity.

Due to the rejection, this column had assumed Malaysia would channel its energy towards making the SEA Games 2027 a resounding success, under the heading “Are We A Nation Content With Staging Only The SEA Games?”.

Little did I realise the government may not even proceed with the plan.

The Youth and Sports Minister, Hannah Yeoh, was quoted as saying the Finance Ministry had requested an impact study of hosting the Games, hours after the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) affiliate members unanimously agreed to appeal to the government not to scrap the idea.

OCM president Tan Sri Norza Zakaria had expressed concerns about the fate of the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur three years from now after the government declined CGF’s offer to replace original host Victoria.

Following Brunei’s withdrawal in 2021, the South-East Asian Games Federation (SEAGF) wanted to grant the hosting rights to a country accustomed to organising multi-sports games before, leading to OCM expressing their interest to step in.

With a track record of having successfully delivered the biennial event on six previous occasions – in 1965 and 1971 when it was known as the SEAP Games and later 1977, 1989, 2019 and 2017 – it was natural for OCM to offer Malaysia as a suitable destination for 2027.

SEAGF had no qualms in giving Malaysia the right.

But with the government seemingly hesitant to press ahead, there was a need for the sports community to express their intent.

The resolution made in the OCM Executive Council meeting last Monday reflected the collective aspiration of the sports community.

Saying no to the SEA Games will further dampen their enthusiasm.

If we do not host the Games sandwiched between two editions to be staged by our regional peers Thailand in 2025 and Singapore in 2029, what do we have to show in the foreseeable future under the present economic slump?By declining the CGF offer that came with a RM602mil subsidy, we have missed the opportunity to boost the tourism sector.

Although the subsidy would not be able to offset the eventual financial outlay, it is better to have some of the pudding than none of a pie.

With the SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur in serious doubt, I wonder whether those who wanted the government to forego the Commonwealth Games and instead focus on the regional multi-sports festival, remain steadfast and come forward to state their case.

We need to keep moving forward. Sports need to prosper.

Let us organise the SEA Games with Sarawak and Johor as two of the venues, with Kuala Lumpur as the hub.

With Malaysia’s reputation as a leading regional player, we should not forego the opportunity to produce an organisational template for future SEA Games.

In the 2017 Games, Airbnb reportedly welcomed 2,000 guest arrivals in the area surrounding the National Stadium in Bukit Jalil alone, representing a 100% increase on bookings in the area during the equivalent period the previous year.

The economic impact goes well beyond hotel and tourism sector.

Platinum sponsors paid between RM7.5mil to RM15mil to have their brand associated with the regional competition.

A SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur will be a perfect platform for the younger generation of athletes to make a name for themselves.

Granted, we conceded defeat in the CGF issue. Let us not repeat the mistake.

The harder the struggle to make the SEA Games a reality, the more glorious the triumph.

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Say What , On The Line , column , Rizal Hashim


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