It can be quite surprising to realize that about half a year has passed since the Southeast Asian Games were held in the Philippines in late 2019. Perhaps it felt like time flew so fast because of the confinement of people during the COVID-19 quarantines. Filipino sports fans would remember the SEA Games fondly due to the hometown athletes winning the most medals, as well as the large number of specific events competed for. Hopes that the next host – Hanoi, Vietnam – would carry over the events bonanza seem squashed due to the organizers’ announcement that they would cut some events due to a smaller budget.
Now it seems the 2021 Hanoi SEA Games organizing committee really are streamlining the events they will feature next year. As relayed to Philippine Olympic Committee president Bambol Tolentino this Thursday, July 23, the only sports to be competed in by participants in Hanoi in 2021 are the same events that are seen in either the Summer Olympics or the Asian Games. All in all, there will be 36 sports for the next SEA Games from which 450 gold medals can be won. Compared to last year, Hanoi looks to be skipping 20 other events.
A reason for the lesser amount of sporting events in Hanoi could be attributed indeed to redirecting of funds from the SEA Games preparation to Vietnam’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless, having fewer events also cramps into the chances of Philippine athletes to medal, particularly by removing niche events introduced back in 2019 such as skateboarding and e-sports. For the latter event, the Philippines’ e-sports federation has joined its voice to the Asian regional body in order to convince the Hanoi organizers to find a place for their players.
POC head Tolentino does offer a ray of hope. The 2021 SEA Games organizing committee has made known that they might still add a possible four more sports that are each supported by eight out of the ten Southeast Asian nations. That would make it an even 40 events, still small compared to the Philippines’ stint, but more competitive in terms of medal count. The Hanoi committee is giving until the end of this year to make final the total events to be contested, giving the rest of 2021 to venue preparations ahead of the SEA Games being held in late November to early December.
Image courtesy of Tempo