Fate of Hanoi SEA Games yet to be decided

Despite widespread media reports that the Nov 21-Dec 2 SEA Games in Hanoi will be postponed to next year, the status of the event remains in limbo, with Vietnam yet to pull the plug on the biennial competition.

The SEA Games Federation held a meeting involving the region's 11 National Olympic Committees (NOCs) yesterday to discuss the status of the year-end event, but no decision was made.

A spokesman from the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) told The Straits Times: "The SNOC participated in a SEA Games Federation meeting today to discuss options for the 31st SEA Games.

"The Vietnam NOC considered the NOCs' feedback, as well as the congested major Games calendar in 2022.

"The Vietnam NOC will next continue discussions with their respective stakeholders on the available options. We await their updates on the outcome for the 31st SEA Games."

The meeting was called after the Vietnam Olympic Committee flagged concerns over the viability of staging the Games this year as the region battles a surge in Covid-19 cases in recent weeks. The 40-sport event is set to feature over 10,000 athletes, coaches and other participants.

According to AFP, Vietnamese news portal Phap Luat Online reported that the Vietnam Olympic Committee had sent a letter to its regional counterparts proposing the postponement of this year's edition to July next year "due to the complicated situation of the Covid-19 pandemic" prior to yesterday's meeting.

But, reported ESPN, a majority of the NOCs, including Singapore, had voted against the proposal to move the event to July next year. It cited Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham Tolentino as saying that the hosts would make a final decision next week.

The July date is problematic for countries like Singapore and Malaysia as the higher-profile Commonwealth Games in Birmingham are set for July 28-Aug 8.

Next year's sporting calendar is also packed with other major multi-sport events including the Winter Olympics in Beijing (February) and Asian Games in Hangzhou, China (September).

Vietnam, which last hosted the Games in 2003, has reportedly set aside a budget of US$69 million (S$91.3 million) to stage the competition.

While it had reportedly introduced a "no vaccine, no participation" policy for this year's Games, AFP reported yesterday that the number of cases in the country has more than tripled since April, taking the total case tally to over 9,000.

The agency also noted that Vietnam has the lowest vaccination per capita rate in South-east Asia, with only about 1 per cent of its population vaccinated thus far.

Others in the region are also struggling to contain outbreaks.

Indonesia has recorded over 1.87 million cases and more than 51,900 deaths, while Thailand (over 183,000 cases) is facing its third coronavirus wave with the highest number of daily cases and deaths reported since the start of the pandemic. Malaysia has more than 628,000 cases, with more than 3,500 deaths.

In Singapore, a recent surge in community cases saw the introduction of stricter Covid-19 measures, such as a ban on dining in in eateries, from May 16 to Sunday.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 10, 2021, with the headline 'Fate of Hanoi SEA Games yet to be decided'. Subscribe