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SEA Games 2019 organisers claim victory after closing ceremony

Fireworks display at the Closing Ceremony of the Southeast Asian Games on December 11, 2019 at New Clark City Athletics Stadium, Philippines. (Photo by Gary Tyson/Getty Images for SEA Games)

The 30th Southeast Asian Games ended yesterday with a closing ceremony at the 20,000-seater, purpose-built New Clark City Athletics Stadium.

Speaking at the ceremony, the chairman of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organising Committee (Phisgoc), Alan Peter Cayetano, hailed the country’s hosting of the event, which appeared to recover after a troubled start: “We Southeast Asians, we Filipinos, have shown the world that we can do it with world-class quality.”

Around 8,750 athletes and officials took part in what was the biggest-ever SEA Games, across 10 days of competition in venues across Clark, Manila and Subic. The Philippines dominated the event on the field of play, winning 149 gold, 118 silver and 120 bronze medals.

Phisgoc appears to have delivered a broadly successful Games, after some early problems. In the first week, arriving athletes had trouble at the airport and checking in to accommodation, and there were reports of unfinished or hastily assembled venues. There was controversy over a ₱50m ($1m/€900,000) cauldron commissioned for the opening ceremony. And Typhoon Kammuri forced the cancellation and rescheduling of several events.

Organisers may face a government probe, called for by President Rodrigo Duterte after the early organisational gaffes and Senate concern over spending on the event.

Phisgoc chairman Cayetano struck a positive note this week, however, telling local media: “The objectives of good hosting and staging the biggest SEA Games were met. We all saw how successful this is.

“When we look at the ratings, we can say that this could also be the most viewed SEA Games so far.”

Cayetano also said there would be an investigation into fake reports of problems in the early stages of the competition, and warned of criminal or civil charges against anyone found guilty: “We have laws – whether it’s cyber libel, libel or whatever – and you cannot do that to your own country. We want to host the Asian Games in 2030, so we have 10 years not only to build but also to mature and part of the maturing process is for us to be accountable.

“You know, you can disagree with government but you cannot sabotage your own people and your own government.”

Cayetano also welcomed moves by the Philippine Ombudsman to conduct a fact-finding investigation on the ₱6.5bn government fund used in the hosting of the SEA Games, and said he was confident that the probe would not find any anomalies in Phisgoc’s accounts.