SEA Games venues 'on time': Philippine officials

A view of the athletics stadium for the 30th SEA Games in New Clark City on Friday. Main venues for the games are nearing completion but works on other facilities are still in progress.
A view of the athletics stadium for the 30th SEA Games in New Clark City on Friday. Main venues for the games are nearing completion but works on other facilities are still in progress.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

Philippine officials confident that all facilities will be completed 'way ahead of schedule'

The main venue for this year's SEA Games is nearly completed and will be ready to receive athletes next month, in time for the opening ceremony in November, Philippine officials said on Friday.

"Right now, we can tell you with utmost certainty that all these facilities will be finished - way ahead of schedule," Vince Dizon, president of the state-run Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), said in a news briefing.

With that, he said, the SEA Games will proceed as scheduled from Nov 30 to Dec 11, dousing speculation that the biennial event may have to be moved to next year because of disagreements among local sports officials.

The BCDA oversees the 9,450ha New Clark City, where the SEA Games will be held. Clark, a former United States military base, is about a two-hour drive north of Manila.

Patrick Nicholas David, president of MTD Philippines, told reporters that the Athletics Stadium and the Aquatics Centre at Clark were "about 90 per cent complete".

MTD is building the 13 billion peso (S$350 million) sports hub at Clark, under a 25-year build-lease-transfer agreement.

A media tour showed the 20,000-seat Athletics Stadium, with its 400m, nine-lane track, nearly finished. But construction was still in progress at the Aquatics Centre, where all the swimming events will be taking place.

About half the 2,000 seats had yet to be installed. The walls and floors were still mostly bare cement. Plastic pipes were sticking out from the floor. The diving boards had yet to arrive, and scaffolding was everywhere.

The buildings where most of the athletes would be staying were already standing. But workers were still installing fixtures, and the rooms had yet to be furnished.

At least 3,000 athletes are expected to stay at Clark. They will be competing in about 100 events in athletics and swimming.

Most of the roads were still unpaved, and the grounds still bare.

David said the pools should be ready early next month, and swimmers and divers would be able to try those out by Aug 15.

"We're right now trying to make sure there's enough water pressure, there are no leaks, the lights are working, (and) the timing system works properly," he said.

The Athletes' Village would be ready by the end of next month, and some 8,000 workers were working round-the-clock, he added.

Dizon said a new six-lane road connecting Clark's airport to the main sports venue should be finished by September.

Construction of the Athletics Stadium and the Aquatics Centre began in March last year.

Singapore consulting firm Surbana Jurong helped design the facilities, modelling the stadium after the Singapore Sports Hub.

David said his company had half the time normally needed to build a hub for an international sporting event. "Everything was rushed. But we have timed it and programmed it so that we will finish ahead of schedule," he said.

Asked if the rush job could lead to shabby workmanship, BCDA president Dizon said: "You can hold the Olympics here, if you wanted."

There has been talk that the games would have to be moved to next year due to squabbles within the Philippine Olympic Committee.

There were allegations that the private group tasked with organising the event entered into questionable deals, including purchasing overpriced uniforms and training gear.

Philippine Sports Commission chief William Ramirez said last month that President Rodrigo Duterte had instructed him to make sure preparations were on track for the SEA Games in November.

"The president is aware of the issues, but directed us to keep our focus on the athletes, and let the others sort out their issues within their ranks," he said.

The SEA Games will have 57 sports, the most ever. This year's edition will be the first to recognise computer gaming as a sport.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 22, 2019, with the headline 'SEA Games venues 'on time''. Print Edition | Subscribe