Still game on for Team Singapore despite Games woes

SEA Games flag-bearer Samuel Kang waving the flag at the flag presentation ceremony for Singapore athletes at Our Tampines Hub yesterday. Looking on (from left) are Winter Youth Olympics 2020 chef de mission Joanne Kyra Loo, SEA Games 2019 chef de mission
SEA Games flag-bearer Samuel Kang waving the flag at the flag presentation ceremony for Singapore athletes at Our Tampines Hub yesterday. Looking on (from left) are Winter Youth Olympics 2020 chef de mission Joanne Kyra Loo, SEA Games 2019 chef de mission Juliana Seow, Singapore National Olympic Council president Tan Chuan-Jin (partly hidden), Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Grace Fu and Asean Para Games 2020 chef de mission Eric Tseng. ST PHOTO: ALPHONSUS CHERN

Chef de mission, leading record away team, hopeful kinks will be ironed out in Philippines

With less than three weeks to the SEA Games in the Philippines, the organisers are grappling with a number of issues - ranging from uncompleted facilities to information technology (IT) problems and headaches caused by the notorious traffic snares in Manila.

However, Singapore's chef de mission Juliana Seow is optimistic that the Nov 30-Dec 11 biennial Games will proceed as planned, promising that "we will work with the Philippines to try to have the best SEA Games ever".

She was speaking on the sidelines of yesterday's official flag presentation ceremony for Singapore contingents to the SEA Games, Winter Youth Olympic Games 2020 and Asean Para Games 2020.

Daily hours-long traffic jams on Manila's congested roads are the "main concern", said Seow, 47, at the Festive Plaza at Our Tampines Hub.

According to traffic navigation app Waze, motorists took about 4.9 minutes to drive one kilometre in Metro Manila in September.

"Of course, we are worried but because the transport is done by the organisers, as long as our athletes are on the transport, we don't have to worry about them," said Seow.

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority, an agency that manages traffic, said it will implement a stop-and-go traffic scheme along its highways and major roads to allow vehicles carrying athletes and officials to travel smoothly between the venues.

Media reports this month also highlighted IT issues that could affect the Games experience for fans, as the lack of network infrastructure and connectivity at the venues could hinder real-time updates of results and medal standings during the events.

Singapore squash's gold-medal hopes were also dealt a blow, after organisers scrapped all doubles events on Tuesday as the jumbo doubles court at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex will not be completed in time for the tournament. Singapore are the defending champions of the men's and women's jumbo doubles.

Singapore's flag-bearer, Samuel Kang, who won the men's jumbo doubles at the last Games in 2017, was disappointed to see his event axed.

He added: "We can't really control that. What we have control over is our preparation, and that's going well at the moment."

The 28-year-old is targeting medals in his three events - men's singles and team, and mixed team.

Singapore will field the largest away Games contingent, with 666 athletes across 48 sports.

At the last edition in Kuala Lumpur, the athletes achieved a record away haul of 58 gold, 58 silver and 72 bronze medals.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, Grace Fu, who was the guest of honour yesterday, said: "We are very excited to send the largest team away this SEA Games.

"More than half of them are actually debutants, so we're very glad that they have the chance to participate in one of the most important Games in the region.

"The events are quite different from 2017, so we're keeping our hopes up for them to do their best... and improve on themselves."

For the first time, Singapore will be sending two athletes to next year's Winter Youth Olympics in Lausanne - short track speed skater and flag-bearer Alyssa Pok and ice hockey player Matthew Hamnett, both 15.

Shuttler Tay Wei Ming will lead a contingent of 61 at the Asean Para Games next January.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 10, 2019, with the headline 'Singapore still game despite Games woes'. Print Edition | Subscribe