Thursday, 5 March 2009

Is The Sea Games Losing Its Glamour?

KUALA LUMPUR, March 4 (Bernama) -- The SEA Games, into its 25th edition, may have lost its allure, following the emergence of a number of new major events in the region and the fact that SEA Games host, Laos, are unable to offer the usual number of sports or medals.

Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) secretary Datuk Sieh Kok Chi agreed that though the introduction of new events was a good move to expose young athletes, it has more or less eroded the attention and importance of the SEA Games to a certain degree.

However, though some of the events are being organised for the first time and sanctioned or endorsed by the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA), organising such events has given room for speculation as to its real objective - whether organised to make profits or just to fill the Asian calendar of events.

Kok Chi said with so many events on the calendar, the OCM are also in a bind and has to pick and choose events to determine whether such championships were beneficial or not.

From January to December, there are a total of eight major championships for OCM to participate.

Among them are the 5th Australian Youth Olympics Festival (Jan 14-18), 1st Asian Martial Arts Games, Bangkok (April 25-May 3), Arafura Games, Darwin, Australia (May 9-17), 1st Asian Youth Games, Singapore (June 29-July 7), World Games, Taiwan (July 16-26), 2nd Islamic Solidarity Games, Iran (Oct 15-26), 3rd Asian Indoor Games, Hanoi (Oct 30-Nov 8) and the Laos SEA Games (Dec 9-18).

Publicity for such events as against the SEA Games, has also robbed the glamour for the biggest multi-sport event in ASEAN.

According to Kok Chi, he had raised his concern over the growing number of events organised without a clear indication of its objective, at a forum recently, but had received negative response as some countries felt it was a quick way of making some profits.

He cited the 1st Asian Beach Games in Bali, Indonesia from Oct 18-26 last year which suffered heavy loses although it was aimed at making profit.

"Though the Asian Beach Games was sanctioned by OCA, the cost of hosting the event was borne by the host and since beach sports was not popular in the region, the host suffered loses," he said.

Kok Chi said he would again raise the matter at the OCA Congress in Kuwait (March 13-14) so that the OCA can evaluate the introduction of such events.

As for Malaysia, the OCM would only decide to compete in events that offered maximum benefits to athletes and of all the eight events on the OCM calendar, priority would still be the SEA Games, he said.

He added that priority number two would be the Youth Olympics, Asian Youth Commonwealth Games and Asian Youth Games while the Asian Indoor, Asian Martial Arts Games and Islamic Solidarity Games are third in line on the priority list and associations need to source for their own funds from sponsors to compete.

"The current economic crisis will restrict sponsors from coming forward to support, as such OCM too need to be selective in providing assistance to associations or athletes who wished to compete in the eight events," he said.

Laos, the poorest country in ASEAN, are also suffering from the crisis and do not have enough resources to go on a massive publicity campaign for the Games and money was also the reason for the host to reduce the number of sports from 43 in Korat, Thailand in 2007, to 25 this year.

The host would be depending heavily on the RM300 million financial aid offered by China, Vietnam and Thailand, to build infrastructure and host the Games, he said.


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