Friday, June 24, 2016

Legacy or chaos?



It may sound like a noble idea and a legacy to be left behind but organising the 29th Sea Games and the 9th Asean Para Games jointly next year can only mean chaos.
Already, last year’s Sea Games host, Singapore, is a tough act to follow; it is said to have organised the best Games ever. So, doing two Games together would be putting too much on our plate and inviting unnecessary pressure.
The newly elected board of the Paralympic Council of Malaysia (PCM), headed by president S.M. Nasarudin, has proposed to the Olympic Council of Malaysia, and gained the support of Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, to hold a joint Games and call it the inaugural Asean Games or “1 Asean Games”.
Bringing a joint Games to fruition would be no mean feat. Yes, if successful, it will be a legacy for the prime movers as they would be the first to do it. But it is going to be a nightmare in terms of logistics and resources.
It is learnt that the prime minister has been convinced that organising both the Games will reduce organisational costs, especially since there will be only one opening ceremony and one closing ceremony for both the Games. He has given the idea the nod.
Traditionally, the Para Games is held after the Sea Games. And it is the same for the Asian and Olympics Games.
But it is the Commonwealth Games that PCM is trying to emulate where both the Games are held jointly.
However, for the Commonwealth Games, there are only 10 core sports on the programme and an additional seven from a list of optional sports/disciplines while for the Para Games, there are four core sports that must be included, and then an additional three listed as optional Para-Sports. But the events must not exceed 20, which must be fully integrated into the overall sports programme.
Thus, the overall number of sports is small at the Commonwealth Games and minimal at the Para Games, and thus manageable.
While PCM have claimed they have the full support of the Asean Paralympic Council for a joint Games, it is learnt that it was not a unanimous decision and several officials on the PCM board do not see the idea as feasible.
For starters, the Philippines, the next host of the Sea Games in 2019, have come out openly to say that they do not have the means to organise a joint Games and will host the Games separately.
So, does this mean the joint Games will just be for the Kuala Lumpur Games?
But before that can happen, the Sea Games Federation (SGF), who are meeting next month in Kuala Lumpur, have to endorse PCM’s proposal, which has to be supported by OCM.
For starters, OCM are still waiting for a detailed proposal on how the joint Games can be organised with all the logistics and resource details to be studied before presenting at the SGF meeting.
OCM have been given preliminary brief by PCM saying that except for athletics and swimming, all other events can he held at the same venue for both Games.
Among the issues that need to be addressed are:
* Whether the duration of the Games will have to be extended because of the number of events. For instance, for athletics and swimming, Sea Games will see 46 and 38 respectively while for the Para Games, it will be a total of 95 events for athletics (because of the items for a single event under various categories, that is for the 100m there will be 21 events!) and 91 for swimming.
A total of 16 sports have been proposed for the Para Games with a total of 240 events for men and 120 for women for a total of 1,215 medals as opposed to the Sea Games’ current selected 34 sports – comprising 342 events – but this could well increase to 40 or more sports when the SGF meet next month to decide on the final number of Games after appeals made after the last meeting in February.
Currently, the Sea Games is scheduled to be held from Aug 19 to 31 with the closing ceremony coinciding with Malaysia’s 60th Merdeka celebrations.
·        Logistics issues of transport, accommodation, venues and distances.
·        Resources – whether we have enough officials for both Games as many officials officiate in both Games.
·        Expenses – whether it will actually be cheaper or could be the same to organise two Games separately.
·        Media – with all the media attention on the Sea Gams, will the Para Games get enough publicity? Will the media have enough resources to cover both Games held simultaneously? 
·        Spectators – whether we will have spectators at the Para Games as the majority would prefer to watch events at the Sea Games.
This is the sixth time the Sea Games will be held in Malaysia (after 1965, 1971, 1977, 1989 and 2001), which sees the biennial Games being hosted after 16 years. Naturally, Malaysia want to make it a memorable affair.
It will definitely be a challenge to handle about 7,000 Sea Games athletes and officials and even more challenging to handle and cater for 3,000 para athletes.
We seriously have to ask ourselves whether it is manageable or are we courting trouble?
We have to decide, once and for all, whether we want to have a great Sea Games separately or a joint affair and head for a fiasco.

TONY is a sports
journalist with more than
three decades of experience
and is passionate about
local sports.
He can be reached at
Twitter: @tmariadass​

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