The 31st Southeast Asian Games that Vietnam was supposed to host this December is in a deep quandary—no thanks to the unabated COVID-19 pandemic.
The SEA Games Federation, according to Philippine Olympic Committee president Rep. Abraham “Bambol” Tolentino, gave Vietnam an ultimatum in October to decide whether to hold the Games in 2022 or cancel them outright.
“The consensus was for Vietnam to make a decision, otherwise, the 31st SEA Games would be canceled,” Tolentino said.
The federation met online last Friday and Tolentino said that a late May 2022 schedule was decided as the most convenient and logical for all 11 member countries.
“There are three major Asian and two international competitions in 2022,” Tolentino said. “That leaves Vietnam a very small window to hold the SEA Games.”
The Thailand Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games are scheduled from March 10 to 20, Hangzhou Asian Games from September 10 to 25 and Shantou Asian Youth Games from December 20 to 28.
The Beijing Winter Olympics are set from February 4 to 20 and the International Olympic Committee-sanctioned World Games are from July 7 to 22 in Birmingham, Alabama, USA. Newly-crowned US Open champion Carlo Biado won the 9-ball gold medal at the 2017 World Games in Wroclaw, Poland.
“All these five competitions are major events, they are staged once every four years,” Tolentino said.
The schedule for the Hanoi 31st SEA Games is as crucial as the Vietnamese government’s decision on holding the games in May.
“Cambodia, the host of the 32nd SEA Games, decided to hold the competitions in February 2023, after the Chinese New Year for that year,” Tolentino said. “And that’s the reason why Vietnam could only have until the latter part of May to host.”
Cambodia, Tolentino said, emphasized that it needs its own comfortable window—eight months if Vietnam hosts in May—to guarantee its successful first hosting of the games.
“We understand the situation of Cambodia because as hosts in 2019, we had two years at least to prepare for our successful campaign and hosting,” Tolentino said. “Cambodia wants to excel in its hosting debut and, in fact, all infrastructure and collaterals for the 32nd SEA Games are ready.”
If Hanoi is canceled, Tolentino said Vietnam could take its turn in 2027.
“Thailand is host of the 33rd edition in 2025 and as of now, Laos or Brunei has yet to confirm for 2027,” he said. “If these two countries pull back, then Vietnam gets its turn back.”
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