SEA Games hosting troubles anger Philippine President Duterte

The barrage of complaints from athletes taking part in the regional sports meet had reached President Rodrigo Duterte, who was in Busan. PHOTO: AFP

MANILA (PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER/ASIA NEWS NETWORK) - President Rodrigo Duterte is angry over the logistical troubles that have been plaguing the country's hosting of the 2019 South-east Asian (SEA) Games, the presidential palace has said, as it urged the organisers to ensure that they have back-up plans to avoid inconveniencing foreign and Filipino athletes.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said the barrage of complaints from athletes taking part in the regional sports meet had reached the President, who was in Busan, South Korea until Tuesday afternoon.

"Of course, the President does not like what is happening," Mr Panelo said in an interview over state-run Radyo Pilipinas on Tuesday (Nov 26). "The President is angry over what happened."

Mr Panelo also supported calls for an investigation into the hosting of the SEA Games once it is over, and for sanctions to be meted out to those who will be proven to be accountable for the mess.

Senator Bong Go has said he would initiate a Senate inquiry into the problems that inconvenienced athletes.

Senator Manny Pacquiao, who will be a torchbearer in the Games' opening, said problems related to the SEA Games facilities should be discussed after the event so as not to distract the country's athletes, who should be given encouragement and support.

Logistical troubles continue to mar the country's hosting of the SEA Games as foreign athletes begin to arrive and train for the regional sports meet, which will open on Saturday.

The complaints range from accommodation and transportation problems, to crammed shuttles from the airport and inadequate food.

A Filipino team's complaint over the lack of nutritious food served to local athletes - particularly the combination of rice, egg and "kikiam" (a popular flour-based food) - went viral on social media.

Earlier, Mr Panelo said no heads would roll among the organisers of the SEA Games, even with the complaints from athletes and negative foreign media reports on the Philippines' hosting of the regional sports meet.

On Tuesday, Mr Panelo urged the organisers to ensure that they have contingency measures to cover any logistical trouble or inconvenience that may occur.

He cited the experience of members of the Cambodian football team, who had to sleep on the floor of the Century Park Hotel in Manila since the team arrived earlier than the agreed check-in time of 2pm on Saturday.

"If the athletes arrived earlier, then why not bring them to another hotel for the meantime? Why would you wait for the 2pm check-in time and make them sleep just anywhere?" Mr Panelo said.

As to complaints about the transportation of athletes, the Palace official said the organisers should have backup vehicles on standby at all times.

Following transportation and accommodation problems, the Department of Tourism on Tuesday said it would be handling reception and accommodation coordination for sports delegations arriving for the Games.

In a statement, the department said it had partnered with the Tourism Congress of the Philippines to implement "best practices in welcoming international guests to the country".

The Tourism Congress is composed of all accredited tourism enterprises and former government officials involved in the tourism industry.

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