Publication : MM
Date : 25/11/2005
Headline : SEA Games changes for the worse?
THE SEA Games have seen a lot of changes since I made my debut as a
sports journalist in the Singapore edition in 1983.
I am into my 12th consecutive Games in Manila, which start on Sunday,
and without a shadow of a doubt, changes that have taken place over the
last two decades include the burgeoning number of athletes.
The rising statistics also include the travelling party by virtue of
being members of the support services.
There are "other officials" joining as "observers", who usually exceed
the number of actual officials in the contingent.
Many of these "officials" come from the respective State Sports
Council, sports bodies, statutory bodies, supporters, family members and
The Games have over the years become more of a carnival rather than a
sporting event, an endeavour intended to unearth talent in the region, an
arena of competition for budding athletes and a stepping stone for
established ones to push themselves beyond their boundaries.
These days, the Games have grown so big that leisure activities and
traditional sports have joined the fraternity.
Gone are the days when the Games were held at one city of the host
nation. The new tradition dictates that the venues are scattered all over
the host nation, making the Games a nightmare not only in terms of
logistics but also media coverage.
While the International Olympic Council (IOC) take the trouble to
protect their extravaganza by making resolutions to limit the number of
sports, the SEA Games family seem to be adopting a different approach.
For the Philippines Games, a total of 41 sports will be competed with
441 gold medals at stake!
While Malaysia have been vocal about the increasing number of sports
and medals and the number of cities the sports are held in the Games
these days, they themselves are equally guilty.
In 2001 when Malaysia were the hosts, some events were held in Penang
and Johor. Vietnam followed suit two years later with Ho Chi Minh City
and Hanoi the two venues
Perhaps it's time the SEA Games Federation have a rethink on the actual
It is worth considering limiting the Games to the Under-23s or at
worst, the Under-25s, so that it will serve as a stepping stone for young
Indirectly, it will force the countries from this region to work harder
to discover and nurture new talent.
Filipina Elma Muros (left), who made her Games debut in 1983, is still
competing in her favourite event - long jump.
How that's going to help the development of sports in this region is
But having said that, the Games still have a special touch to them.
They came about because of the vision of one man, Luang Sukhum
Nagapradit, vice-president of the Olympic Committee of Thailand, who
initiated the South-East Asian Peninsular (SEAP) Games in Bangkok in 1959.
Many stars have been unearthed since, including Datuk Nashatar Singh,
Datuk Dr M. Jegathesan, the late Mohktar Dahari, Patricia Chan, C.
Kunalan, Jennifer Tin Lay, Rabuan Pit, Suchart Jaesuraparp, Purnomo,
Marina Chin, Nordin Jadi, Jimmy Crampton, Fandi Ahmad, Zainal Abidin
Hassan, Reawadee Watansin, Nurul Huda Abdullah and Lydia de Vega.
The Games, however, are not just about athletes and officials. The
Malaysian media jamboree are also looking forward to the challenge of
providing first hand news with a local slant to the reports.
By my side in Manila are my two colleagues - one a veteran in Mustapha
Kamaruddin, and the other a rookie, Ghaz Ramli.
While the Games will definitely provide a sharp learning curve for
Ghaz, Mustapha is making his "debut" at a late age!
He missed the boat in the earlier Games due to problems with his