SEA Games snafus: Heads should roll

"A huge embarrassment, indeed."


I chanced upon a few tweets of #Tokyo2020 about the Summer Olympics that Japan will host on July 24 to Aug. 9, 2020 and was instantly amazed. It is still 2019 and the South East Asian (SEA Games) Games hosted by the Philippines on Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 have just begun.

Yet, Japan is 100 percent ready for next year’s event.

In fact, the venues that will be used for the various games are now completely operational. Contrast this with the rushed, and as of a few days back, unfinished venues that the SEA Games will use. Reports have it that some events had to be cancelled, or moved to other venues because of the Philippines’ inability to finish the construction or repairs on time.

As expected, Japan’s technological advancement will be in full display and will be experienced by those who will be there for the games. This time, however, Japan is also showing the world that technology need not further destroy the environment.

For one, the toilets that will be used for the Olympics are of course, first class. Japan is known for its high-tech toilets and this may not be very surprising. It’s completely in keeping with the country’s standards.

I cannot help but compare this with the video of the crude two-persons-in-one-cubicle women’s toilet at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum that trended on social media. This has been corrected because two days after, pictures of the same toilet with a divider made the rounds of social media. Many were quick to label the first video as fake news but one look at the “corrected” toilets will reveal that the division was a late addition. Both toilet bowls were right next to the divider leaving the users no leg room. We all know that bowls are supposed to be positioned in the middle of the walls behind them.

The torch that Japan will use, following the cherry blossoms motif (very Japan!), is made from recycled materials. This torch will be lighted for the Olympics and will travel all over Japan. The medals and other collaterals are also made from recycled materials. Compare this with the PhP50-million worth of cauldron that we will use for the SEA Games.

Japan came out with Someity. These are cute mascot-type robots that will welcome people in some of the games’ venues for the Summer Olympics. These colorful robots can move, shake hands, and even match people’s emotions! Well, we have our armless Pami. And I will stop here.

The Japanese have come out with different models of vehicles that will be used during the events. There are new models of cars that can go driverless, completely fuelled by hydrogen, and thus, are emission-free. They also have the new very sleekly-designed accessible people mover vehicles that will be used for the Olympics. New buses that can comfortably sit twenty people will ferry delegations and athletes around. These buses are friendly to persons with disabilities and can also go driverless.

Japan’s futuristic vehicles will be fully enjoyed by those who will be there for the Olympics. What better advertising for these vehicles could there be?

For the SEA Games, remember the complaints of delegations that arrived early? The Myanmar delegation minced no words when its members were asked to wait for hours before their ride arrived and the fact that they were cramped inside a vehicle that’s too small for them. Nothing of this sort should have happened. The problem has been solved since with the entry into the picture of private companies with their bigger and better buses.

Based on a #Tokyo2020 video, identification cards may not be needed to enter Olympic venues. What they will have is face recognition registration system where people will simply face a machine and push a button for registration and they will be able to come and go without hassle. No need for paper, ink, plastic casings, etc. Such an efficient way to register and get accredited!

Who will forget the difficulties faced by those who needed accreditation for the SEA Games? Journalists went to the appointed place on the appointed date only to find out that no ID cards could be released yet a few days before the start of the games. Even athletes complained that their accreditation took a long time which contributed to more delays in their going to their hotels.

Some press IDs were also wrong. For instance, journalist Raffy Tima posted on Facebook an ID that indicated the name Mariz Tima but bearing his picture. His name was inadvertently combined with that of his wife, Mariz, but who still goes by Mariz Umali. Of course this sort of thing can happen in big events and should not be a big deal. However, combined with all the other snafus, this became news.

There were other complaints in terms of delays in accommodation where athletes needed to wait for many hours before they could check-in. The delegations of Timor Leste, Cambodia, and even Philippines suffered this. The number of athletes per room also became a problem with three, four, up to five athletes shared a room.

Complaints about the kind and volume of food and water served the athletes became big news. Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippine teams complained about the repetitive food, small servings, lack of halal food for Muslim athletes, lack of nutritional value of food, and inadequate amount of drinking water. One report said that Thailand’s complaints reached the Prime Minister and the team resorted to buying their own food. Singapore did not mince words in their letter to the organizers. Kikiam trended on social media when a Filipina coach said that they were served kikiam, egg, and rice for breakfast.

Filipino hospitality is something that Filipinos are proud of. We give the best to our visitors because we want them to have a good experience with us. This is true no matter how humble our station in life is. We value our guests’ impression of us as a family, people, and country. This is the reason why Filipinos could not accept these snafus that could have been completely prevented.

This is the fourth time that we are hosting the SEA Games. While not perfect, we did well in 1981, 1991, and 2005. I do not aspire to be like Japan at this point BUT there is no excuse for the lack of, and very poor preparations for the SEA Games. After all, it is not as if we only knew about our hosting this last year. If reports are to be believed, we even borrowed PhP 11 BILLION from a Malaysian bank to host this event. Therefore, money is not a problem.

It all boils down to irresponsibility of those who were supposed to prepare for this. For now, we should do our best and cheer team Philippines. After, heads should roll for causing the country huge embarrassment.

@bethangsioco on Twitter Elizabeth Angsioco on Facebook

Topics: South East Asian Games , Philippines , Summer Olympics , SEA Games , Corruption
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