December of 2019 saw the Philippines play host to athletic delegations around Southeast Asia for the 2019 SEA Games. Despite concerns about logistics (the reason the country took over from original planned host Brunei) and the expense (especially with the Marawi Siege two years earlier), the multi-sports event was deemed successful, especially with the host becoming overall champion. It was also fortuitous timing since the COVID pandemic exploded in 2020. Next SEA Games host Vietnam hoped the worst would end by 2021. When that did not materialize, there was possibility that they might cancel even after a postponement to 2022.
The Manila Bulletin reports that Vietnam was being given until next month by the Southeast Asian Games Federation to decide whether or not they will push through with the 31st SEA Games in Hanoi next year. This ultimatum of sorts was revealed by Philippine Olympic Committee President Bambol Tolentino this Monday, September 20. The SEA Games Federation members held an online meeting regarding whether Vietnam would be able to uphold its promise to kick off the event on May 2022, from its original date of November to December this 2021. If Vietnam cannot guarantee hosting by October, the Federation would have them cancel the Games.
It is important that Vietnam could definitively say yes to hosting the SEA Games and that they could commit to the May 2022 date. That month comes across as the only comfortable window next year for Southeast Asian athletes to compete, given that other major regional meets will take place before and after May. March is given over to the Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games, with Thailand as host. The next Asian Games is due on September with China hosting at Hangzhou, and they gather athletes anew for the Asian Youth Games in December.
Then again all these sporting dates could be moot if the worst of the COVID pandemic continues all the way through to next year. Vietnam must confirm its hosting capability or announce the cancellation of the SEA Games by next month, since Cambodia is also waiting on hosting the event in 2023. Worrying about whether they will compete or not might also distract Southeast Asian athletes from the other events including full-international meets like the July 2022 World Games in the US, and the Winter Olympics, again in Beijing, China.
Aside from Cambodia, future SEA Games hosts in order are Thailand (2025), and Laos or Brunei (2027). If these two countries back out, then Vietnam if it cancels the Games next May, can bid to host again for that year.
Image courtesy of ONE Esports