Food poisoning hits Malaysian athletes

Some Malaysian fans chanted slurs during the host nation's 2-1 victory over Singapore in the SEA Games football clash last week.
Some Malaysian fans chanted slurs during the host nation's 2-1 victory over Singapore in the SEA Games football clash last week.ST PHOTO: MARK CHEONG

Authorities investigating cause of outbreak as 16 competitors from host nation affected

Food poisoning is the latest piece of bad news confronting the Malaysia Organising Committee (Masoc), organisers of the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games.

During yesterday's press conference to provide a mid-Games review of the 29th edition, Masoc sports and technical committee secretary Low Beng Choo said that 16 Malaysian athletes came down with a stomach bug on Wednesday.

One swimmer - understood to be multiple Games champion Daniel Bego - was hospitalised as a precaution.

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

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

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. In the interest of his health, he was asked to skip it."

SEA Games Federation president Tan Sri Tunku Imran Tuanku Ja'afar said Malaysia, which spent RM450 million (S$143 million), had organised a "high-quality SEA Games" that would be delivered with a reasonable budget and would be "under budget".

However, he admitted there had been some hiccups.

He noted: "Transportation hasn't been perfect from the federation's point of view. We believe it can and should be better."

On Monday morning, two buses transporting squash players from Thailand, Myanmar and the Philippines to the Bukit Jalil national stadium were involved in an accident. Eight people were injured.

Earlier this week, Masoc also issued a statement urging fans to behave themselves after Malaysia football supporters caused anger by chanting "Singapore dogs" during the clash between the two sides on Aug 16.

It 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 national 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.

Tunku Imran, who is also OCM president, said the error was inexcusable. He added that the 3,000 books had been recalled, and a further 8,000 books have been reprinted and distributed.

On the issue of unsporting behaviour from fans, he 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."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 25, 2017, with the headline 'Food poisoning hits Malaysian athletes'. Print Edition | Subscribe