‘Biggest-ever’ SEAG in peril

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Initially pegged at 30 in playful reference to President Rodrigo Duterte’s name, the number of sports to be played in the country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games next year remains contentious among federation officials and local NSA leaders keeping preparations for the meet still in disarray.

A reliable source said members of the SEA Games Federation Council strongly doubted if the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc) and Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) can pull off hosting close to 60 sports in the prestigious multi-sport conclave set to open on 30 November (the date still ascertaining links with the Chief Executive).

Major officials of the Council expressed serious concerns about the venues, facilities, manpower and even the schedules since all events have to be finished within 15 days with two days to be allotted for the opening and closing ceremonies.

The talks, a Daily Tribune source said, started when Filipino sports officials met with the Council executives the last time in Thailand.

They were told by Filipino officials to continue with the dialogue in the ongoing Council meeting at the Conrad Hotel in Pasay City.

A press conference scheduled last night was called off as the Council and the local hosts have yet to settle their differences on the burning issue.

Aside from centerpiece athletics and aquatics, as well as spectator sports like basketball, football, volleyball and boxing, Phisgoc and the POC jacked up the total number of sports to 56 to turn this edition into the “biggest SEA Games ever” in its 60-year history.

Included in the roster are sports, which have yet to establish their local federations like vovinam, modern pentathlon, underwater hockey and petanque and E-Sports.

Even kurash, kickboxing, sambo and obstacle sports made the list submitted by former POC president Celso Dayrit to Council members in a meeting in Bangkok last October.

Then, two other sports — handball and netball — also appealed for inclusion that left the POC with no choice but to hike the total number of sports to 58.

The source said deliberations are still ongoing, prompting Phisgoc and the POC to call off the press briefing.

“Other countries were questioning the number of sports so the deliberations were extended and the press conference was called off,” said the source, speaking on condition of anonymity.

“Other member countries were worried if the Philippines can successfully host all of these sports. They were asking about our venues, facilities and even the schedule since the SEA Games must run only for 15 days.”

Even the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) is not in favor to have close to 60 sports in the biennial meet.

According to a ranking PSC official, jacking up the number of sports will be a major problem for the government sports agency as it has to dole out additional fund for the allowance and other needs of new members of the national team.

The source, who also spoke on condition of anonymity for lack of authority from PSC chairman William “Butch” Ramirez, said they were not even consulted by the Olympic council before jacking up the number of sports.

“Of course, having more sports in the SEA Games also means more members of the national team and additional expenses on the part of the government,” said the source.

“We were not even consulted. They (POC) didn’t even reach out to ask if we have the budget to finance the allowance, supplies and other needs of additional athletes.”

Deliberations are still ongoing at press time and the Phisgoc and the POC have yet to formally release the final number of sports and events to be played in the SEA Games.

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