SEA Games likely to be postponed amid regional surge of Covid-19
The Nov 21-Dec 2 SEA Games in Hanoi, Vietnam, look set to be postponed amid a surge of Covid-19 cases in the region.
The Straits Times understands that the Vietnam Olympic Committee had written to the region's National Olympic Committees (NOCs) last week and cited the rising cases in the country, although a postponement was not stated in the circular. A meeting of the 11 NOCs will take place tomorrow.
A Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) spokesman told ST yesterday: "The Vietnam NOC shared an update with the NOCs with regards to the latest developments in Vietnam.
"The SEA Games Federation will be meeting this week to discuss the available options for the 31st SEA Games."
Vietnam, which had been relatively successful in dealing with the virus last year, is battling its worst outbreak. More than 5,600 cases have been reported in 39 out of 63 provinces and cities since late April, reported Bloomberg. Major cities like Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City have put social distancing measures in place.
Various regional media outlets have also reported that the SEA Games are at risk of not taking place as scheduled.
On Sunday, news website Vietnam Net reported that the government had asked its sports ministry to submit a plan on the Games organisation based on challenges posed by the pandemic, before a decision on the event would be taken.
It quoted a leader of the General Department of Sports as saying that "it is very difficult to come up with solutions to prevent the spread of Covid with tens of thousands of people".
The report cited three challenges: Low athletic standards with many unable to train freely, difficulty in marketing the Games, and securing the safety of over 10,000 athletes, officials and other participants.
The region has yet to bring the virus under control too.
Reuters said that Indonesia has reported about 1.86 million cases and over 51,000 deaths, with yesterday's 6,993 infections the highest daily increase since March 4.
Thailand is in its third and deadliest wave. It has seen 179,886 total infections and 1,269 fatalities, said Reuters.
In Malaysia, infections are on a downward trend, but the number of daily cases remains high. Total cases breached 600,000 in recent days, with more than 3,000 deaths. Singapore, too, has experienced a recent spike in cases, leading to fresh restrictions from May 16 to Sunday.
Malaysia's The Vibes portal reported yesterday that the biennial Games, which will feature 40 sports, could be postponed to March next year.
However, a delay would not be straightforward, given member nations are also involved in major events in 2022, namely the Beijing Winter Olympics (February), Commonwealth Games in Birmingham (July) and Asian Games in Hangzhou, China (September).
Vietnam last hosted the Games in 2003. Last month, regional media reported that it had implemented a "no vaccine, no participation" policy for the 2021 Games.