SEA Games Federation confirm delayed Hanoi Games will be held in mid-May 2022

SINGAPORE - The SEA Games Federation has accepted Vietnam's proposal for the 31st South-east Asian Games to be held in Hanoi in mid-May next year, with the exact dates to be finalised by the hosts.

A Singapore National Olympic Council spokesman confirmed the news after the federation convened a meeting on Monday (Oct 18), saying: "With the new dates in place, we will adjust the selection qualification window accordingly to reflect the revised timeline."

The biennial Games were originally scheduled for Nov 21-Dec 2, 2021, and were postponed in July after Vietnam experienced a surge in Covid-19 cases.

The number of new cases in the country reached a peak of almost 15,000 in September before dipping to around 3,000 in mid-October.

However, Vietnam will be in a race against time to get ready for the 40-sport event, which is expected to feature over 10,000 athletes, coaches and other participants.

The new dates also mean a packed calendar for some Singaporean athletes who will have to cope with trying to qualify and compete in the SEA Games, July 28-Aug 8 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham, England, and Sept 10-25 Asian Games in Hangzhou, China in the span of five months.

The region, which is still battling to curb the spread of the coronavirus, is also awaiting news on the Games' Covid-19 protocol, with Vietnamese newspaper An Ninh Thu Do reporting that funding for the Games has not been allocated, which means that there are currently no resources to prepare for the Games.

Vietnam, which last hosted the SEA Games in 2003, had reportedly set aside a budget of US$69 million (S$93.7 million) to stage the event.

Zing News journalist Tran Duc Truong told The Straits Times earlier he believed if the Vietnamese government commits to hosting the SEA Games, "it will make it happen and do its best to make it successful", but added that the pandemic throws up many uncertainties.

He also shared that the Vietnamese are currently more concerned about recovering the economy and life returning to normalcy after just exiting a four-month lockdown.

"Hosting the SEA Games will be a blow for the economy as the money can be spent in more critical areas. Many companies went bankrupt and it would also be hard for government to ask for sponsors," he added.

Meanwhile, The Philippine Star reported that Indonesia and Thailand will not be allowed to carry their flags at the SEA Games "for being non-compliant of the anti-doping rules by the World Anti-Doping Agency (Wada)".

Philippine Olympic Committee president Abraham Tolentino told the news outlet on Wednesday that the two countries have a pending appeal.

Olympic Committee of Indonesia secretary general Ferry J. Kono told The Straits Times that the country's anti-doping agency and sports ministry are working to resolve the situation and "hope Wada will issue a new verdict for Indonesia".

He added that if the appeal falls through, the Indonesian contingent will compete under its Olympic committee's flag like Russia did at the Tokyo Olympics owing to a drugs-related ban.