SEA Games: SportSG chief raises possibility 2021 event could be co-hosted 'across different countries'

A handful of fans watching the Singapore Premier League game at Our Tampines Hub on Oct 17, 2020. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Sport Singapore (SportSG) chief executive officer Lim Teck Yin has raised the possibility that the Nov 21-Dec 2 SEA Games could be co-hosted among several Asean nations.

Speaking at the World Health, Fitness & Wellness Week 2021 summit at the Raffles City Convention Centre on May 18, he added that - if required - the Republic "stands ready" to help stage part of the biennial affair "in the spirit of sport and Asean solidarity".

This year's edition of the SEA Games is scheduled to be staged in Hanoi, Vietnam and will feature 40 sports. At the last edition of the SEA Games in the Philippines, some 5,600 athletes from 11 nations participated in 56 sports.

Lim, in response to a question about the challenges organisers of large-scale multi-sport events like the Olympics and SEA Games are facing as a result of the pandemic, noted that "the spirit and will to carry on is ultimately what the (Olympics) is all about".

He added that he hoped Asean would have the same resolve to stage the year-end SEA Games.

"I hope, while it is still months out, that we will have the will to come together," said Lim.

"Whether we come together in a single host city… (or) distributed across different South-east Asian countries, we'll have to wait and see."

While he said that "from a Sport Singapore point of view, we stand ready and able to host some of these competitions, if need be, at the end of the year," he did also concede that "I don't contribute to the conversation of what the SEA Games Federation is planning".

While Manila pulled off the staging of the SEA Games in December 2019, the Asean Para Games, which are traditionally staged shortly after the SEA Games and were due to be held in January 2020, were eventually cancelled due to the pandemic.

Most eyes in the sporting world are now cast on the July 23-Aug 8 Tokyo Olympics to see whether the quadrennial showcase will take place amid a fourth wave of Covid-19 that has hit Japan, leaving the country to extend a state of emergency till June 20.

But closer to home, a sharp rise in coronavirus cases from new variants in parts of South-east Asia has also raised concerns about the viability of the Hanoi Games.

On Monday (May 31), Reuters noted that "the number of daily new Covid-19 cases in Malaysia has soared past India's on a per capita basis, while total cases in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and East Timor have all more than doubled in the past month".

It also reported that Vietnam will suspend incoming international flights to Hanoi from Tuesday as part of efforts to contain a fresh outbreak of the coronavirus.

The country of 98 million had previously stood out for managing earlier waves of the virus well but a new cluster linked to a religious mission from India has seen a spike in cases, from a seven-day average of 16 on May 1, to 262 as of Sunday.

It added: "Adding to concerns, Vietnamese officials revealed the discovery over the weekend of a 'very dangerous' combination of Indian (B1617) and UK (B117) Covid-19 variants, which spreads quickly by air."

Singapore too, has experienced a recent spike in cases, leading to a fresh round of restrictions from May 16 to June 13.

On Monday, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said in a speech broadcast to the nation that the Republic should be able to relax restrictions on social gatherings after June 13, provided the Covid-19 situation continues to improve and the number of community cases falls further.

PM Lee also outlined the Government's plans for Singaporeans to manage the possibility of the Covid-19 virus becoming endemic, through steps like getting vaccinated, taking annual booster shots, and getting tested often.

Singapore last hosted the SEA Games in 2015, welcoming some 4,300 athletes who competed across 36 sports in June that year.

Prior to that, the Republic hosted three other editions of the multi-sport Games, in 1993, 1983 and 1973.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.