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Philippines ‘only realistic candidate’ for 2019 SEA Games

Senior South East Asian Games Federation (SEAGF) executive Chris Chan has said that the Philippines is currently the only realistic candidate to replace Brunei as host of the 2019 edition of the multi-sport event.

After staging the 20th SEA Games in 1999, Brunei was scheduled to host only its second edition of the event 20 years later. However, the Brunei National Olympic Committee last week told an SEAGF council meeting that it would be unable to stage the Games, which are held every two years, due to “a lack of venues, accommodation and preparation time.”

The SEA Games runs an informal rotation policy for hosting rights amongst its 11 member nations, with priority given to those countries that are keen to host but are yet to do so. Thailand has been linked to taking up the 2019 Games, but Chan, chairman of the SEAGF’s sport and rules committee, said that the Philippines is the only realistic destination at present.

No timeline has been set for the assignment of a new host, with the Philippines having hosted its third SEA Games in 2005.

“They (Brunei) said they were not ready and the last time they hosted they put on the minimum number of sports,” Chan told SportBusiness International at the ongoing 2015 SEA Games in Singapore. “The Games can run to quite a big size in countries like Indonesia and Malaysia, but we always ask countries to host it at a level to which they are comfortable.

“It can be short and sweet. You don’t need a big Games and stretch your limits,” he added. “Because I chair the sports committee I request that countries send in their letter of guarantee from the governments. Immediately the NOC of the Philippines were very excited at the (2019) opportunity and said that they want to do it, but have to get the government’s approval and guarantee first.”

In another decision from last week’s meeting, ice hockey and ice skating, along with cricket, were added to the 35 sports that currently hold category two status in the SEA Games programme. The addition of the winter sports disciplines was a surprising development in a region not renowned for its ‘cold weather’ sports.

The Philippines has sent athletes to four winter Olympics and Thailand three, while East Timor sent one skier to Sochi, Russia last year. However, the other eight SEA nations have never participated in a winter Games.
Category two status is reserved for sports holding Olympic and Asian Games status, with SEA Games hosts needing to select a minimum of 14 for their events. Compulsory sports in category one include athletics and the aquatic disciplines of swimming, diving and water polo.

Malaysia is set to host the next SEA Games in 2017, and ice hockey, along with figure skating and short track speed skating, are poised to figure.

“We said we have already moved towards participation in the winter Olympic Games,” Chan, who is also secretary general of the Singapore National Olympic Council, added. “Singapore had its first athlete compete in the 2011 Asian winter Games in short track skating, Thailand and Malaysia competed in ice hockey and the Philippines and Thailand sent athletes to the Sochi winter Olympics.”

He added: “Moving forward we said that while we would never have a winter SEA Games, why don’t we include one or two sports? So the inclusion of ice hockey and ice skating, including short track, is a step forward and Malaysia is very keen to have them. The challenge is to have more NOC bodies participating. We have written to the International Federations (IFs) and they are supportive of it.”

For a full verdict on the 2015 SEA Games, check out the Event Focus in July’s edition of SportBusiness International.