Myanmar get green light for SEA Games

A worker lays pavement stones in front of the new Wunna Theikdi Football Stadium in Naypyidaw, Myanmar, in March. OCM secretary Datuk Sieh Kok Chi said Myanmar is ready to host the SEA Games in December. – EPA Photo
The Star Online

KUALA LUMPUR: Finally, it is a thumbs-up for the SEA Games in Myanmar - just three months before its kickoff in December.

After months of uncertainty over its readiness, Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) secretary Datuk Sieh Kok Chi said that it was all systems go for Myanmar to host the 27th edition of the biennial games.

Kok Chi said that he was impressed with the way things had turned around after a recent visit to Myanmar this month. Myanmar is hosting the Games for the first time after 44 years. The country last hosted the Sea Games in 1969.

“Most of the venues are ready. All the venues have excellent facilities - except for hockey. It is not so impressive as hockey is not a very popular sport in Myanmar. The covered stands can seat about 800 spectators and they have promised to add temporary seats,” said Kok Chi.

“The other facilities are impressive. The Main Stadium is brand new and has world class facilities. The venue for equestrian covers a very large area and it has covered and open air pitches. In fact, a test event had been successfully conducted at this venue.

“I do not foresee any major logistic problems as we had feared initially.”

In fact, Myanmar Airlines are providing direct flights for athletes and officials from Kuala Lumpur to Naypyidaw directly during the Games; no visas are required for athletes and officials; there are sufficient hotels for supporters; and internal transportation will be provided for visitors from hotels to all competition venues for a minimal fee.

On the Games Village, Kok Chi said: “The Games Village is in Naypyidaw and it can house 6,400 occupants. All the apartments are air-conditioned. In Yangon, the athletes and officials will be housed in hotels.”

Myanmar are hosting a total of 33 sports and Malaysia are taking part in 30 of them. The bulk of the sports will be hosted in Naypyidaw while six will be held in Yangon. Only the women’s football and sailing will be held at two different cities - Mandalay and Pathein.

Kok Chi said that the host had also completed the technical books for every sport and has distributed the accreditation forms to every participating country. In fact, OCM completed their selection of athletes by names on Friday.

“Except for athletics, we have finalised the selection of athletes for other sports. Currently, we have finalised the participation of 529 athletes for 30 sports. We are not taking part in vovinam, kempo and the traditional boat race. The MAF (Malaysian Athletics Federation) will confirm the names after their national meet soon,” said Kok Chi. A total of 125 athletes will be going under Category B and for the first time, badminton’s women shuttlers have been classified in this category. The Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) had requested for 16 players but three women shuttlers were listed under Category B.

“The selection committee felt that the standard of the national women shuttlers had dropped. Some women shuttlers - the second-ranked sinlges and doubles shuttlers are young and raw.”

The BAM have to fund the athletes under Category B and they will be reimbursed if these players win medals at the Games.

A total of 460 events will be contested and, Kok Chi said, for now Malaysia will be happy to win at least 10% of it - ranging from 35-40 gold medals.
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