THE SEA Games is supposed to embody Asean solidarity but the reluctance of Vietnam to host the 31st edition of the multisport event in November has not gone down well. Some of the member countries feel the show should go on.
Vietnam’s request to postpone the Games came as a bolt out of the blue. They are pleading for consensus from the SEA Games Federation members to host it in the middle of next year, with a hope that the Covid-19 situation would be better by then.
Their unexpected call is understandable.
Vietnam is now facing its most challenging times as the country has recorded new Covid-19 cases in 39 cities and provinces.
It is believed that the construction of venues has also come to a halt as the government imposed lockdown measures.
The Games is slated to be held in Hanoi and 11 other locations from Nov 23-Dec 2 and eight member countries, including Malaysia, have voiced their objections to the postponement to next year.
They also have valid reasons to object as efforts and investment have been put in to prepare the athletes over the last two years. On top of that, 2022 will be packed with other major Games.
Malaysia was planning to use the SEA Games as a platform to get ready for the more important Games next year – Hangzhou Asian Games and Birmingham Commonwealth Games.
It is also unfair to the athletes who have spent almost two years preparing and keeping themselves in shape just for another stab at SEA Games glory.
Not everyone has the privilege to go to the Tokyo Olympics next month as athletes from sports like wushu, squash and snooker are waiting to strut their stuff at the regional Games.
For some, the participation in the SEA Games is the highest they could go – and something for them to be proud of.
The Covid-19 pandemic has played havoc with the emotional state of national athletes and it is cruel to deny them the chance to compete in what could be the only competition for them this year.
Now, there is a split between the SEA Games members but ultimately, the final decision lies with the hosts.
The SEA Games Federation have to persuade the Vietnam organising committee to find an amicable solution within the next two weeks.
Perhaps some of the member countries can help relieve the burden of Vietnam by hosting some of the sports.
It’s something that has not been done before but these are not normal times we are living in.
A total of 40 sports have been included in Vietnam and it will be an enormous logistical challenge to hold everything together given the health and safety challenges we are facing at the moment.
The SEA Games is very likely to take place under a sport bubble environment and sharing the burden of hosting it together is not a far-fetched idea at this point. After all, that’s what solidarity is all about.