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56-sport Philippines SEA Games leads Asean nations to send large contingents

2019 Southeast Asian Games countdown event. Image credit: Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC)

The upcoming Southeast Asian Games held in the Philippines will consist of 529 events in 56 sports, the most ever held for the biennial event. This has led several Asean nations to send large delegations aiming for gold, Olympic Council of Malaysia president Datuk Seri Mohamad Norza Zakaria revealed his country would send a contingent of 1,063 to participate in 52 sports yesterday.

Speaking to Malaysian media, Mohamad Norza said: “When I asked my counterparts in the Philippines, they noted that they received almost equal participation from other countries such as Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore.”

He added that Malaysia wants to provide opportunities and exposure to new and unfamiliar sports like underwater hockey, sambo, kurash and ballroom dancing.

Indonesia also announced it plans to send 670 athletes for 45 sports at the SEA Games, though budgetary limitations will mean that any additions to their numbers will have to be from self-funded athletes.

Speaking at the Asean Ministerial Meeting on Sports in the Philippines yesterday, head of Indonesian Olympics Committee (KOI) Erick Thohir said: ” The Indonesian government allocation to finance the sports delegation for the SEA Games won’t be changed, and remains set at 47 billion rupiah ($3.3m).”

According to Thohir, who is also the president and owner of Italian Serie A club Inter Milan, there is precedent in Indonesia for self-funded athletes, with the national women’s basketball association sending a team on its own budget for the 2015 Singapore SEA Games.

Singapore pledged to send its largest-ever away contingent to the Philippine SEA Games, with 585 athletes participating from the nation-state. The secretary-general of the Singapore National Olympics Council, Chris Chan, said previously to the Straits Times: “The hosts have been very magnanimous, and have included all the sports that we have appealed for to be at next year’s Games.”

“Including some of these sports makes no sense to them because they have very little chance of winning a medal, but they have put them on the list anyway, and we are grateful.

“Whether it is 51 or 56, no one has done anything like this before, it will be the biggest-ever SEA Games, in terms of the number of sports.”

The SEA Games will run from November 30 to December 10, and currently 9,840 athletes from 11 countries are expected to take part.