SEA Games: 16 Malaysian athletes hit by food poisoning, organisers still investigating source of contamination

Malaysia's contingent arrives for the SEA Games Opening Ceremony at the Bukit Jalil Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia's contingent arrives for the SEA Games Opening Ceremony at the Bukit Jalil Stadium in Kuala Lumpur.PHOTO: REUTERS

KUALA LUMPUR - Food poisoning has become the latest piece of bad news that the Malaysia Organising Committee (Masoc), organisers of the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games, are faced with.

During a press conference on Thursday (Aug 24), Masoc Sports and Technical Committee secretary Low Beng Choo said 16 Malaysian athletes came down with a stomach bug on Wednesday. One was hospitalised as a precaution.

The affected athletes come from a variety of sports, including swimming and petanque, and are recovering.

They were staying at the Renaissance Kuala Lumpur Hotel where the bulk of the 844-strong Malaysian contingent are based.

Low, who is also the Olympic Council of Malaysia's (OCM) secretary general, said: "The matter is being investigated by the (health) ministry and the various authorities. We're not sure if the food was from the hotel, it could have been from outside. They're locals so they could have gone out to eat.

"It's hard to identify the source. All of them had breakfast but there are close to 1,000 people staying in the hotel.

"I understand the affected swimmer missed his event yesterday (Aug 23). In the interest of his health, he was asked to skip it."

Earlier this week, Masoc issued a statement urging fans to behave themselves after Malaysia football supporters caused anger by chanting "Singapore dogs" during the team's Games clash on Aug 16.

Masoc called the incident, footage of which has been circulating online, "highly regrettable" and said it ran counter to the spirit of the biennial sporting affair.

Masoc, along with Malaysia's foreign ministry, were also forced to apologise after Indonesia's flag was printed upside down in a SEA Games commemorative magazine.

It led to a wave of complaints online from Indonesian supporters while Indonesian hackers claimed responsibility for attacking more than 30 Malaysian websites.

In Thursday's press conference, SEA Games Federation president Tan Sri Imran Tuanku Ja'afar said the error was inexcusable and that the 3,000 books had been recalled and 8,000 books have been reprinted and distributed.

On the issue of unsporting behaviour from fans, Tunku Imran, who is also OCM president, said: "Tensions are high and these things happen but I would like to see the security be vigilant.

"If there are signs that are inappropriate, they should be confiscated and the offenders evicted from the grounds.

"I'm not sure in South-east Asia we've gotten to the level of sophistication like in Europe, where they use television to identity these people and nip the thing in the bud.

"I urge the Malaysian public to support all teams. All visitors are our guests and we should be treating them with respect and honouring all the athletes on the field."