With less than 100 days to go, the countdown is on until the opening ceremony of the 27th Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar on 11 December. Competitors and officials alike are busy preparing for an event will undoubtedly pose a logistical challenge for the capital city, Naypyidaw.
The fact that the Southeast Asian Games Federation Council decided to award Myanmar with the hosting of one of the most popular and important sports competitions in the region indicates that the new government has won acceptance and trust among its counterparts. From a sports point of view at least, it appears that Burmese officials are self-confident. The last time they hosted the games in 1969, Myanmar won 149 medals. Speaking earlier this year, Minister of Sports Tint San was quoted saying: “Although we target more gold medals at the 27th SEA Games, we will compete in the games with dignity.”
A total of 33 sports will be contested with 11 nations participating. However, even before the stadiums had been fully constructed, Burmese games officials were criticised for manipulating the sports in a way that favours domestic athletes. Myanmar opted to exclude popular sports such as tennis, badminton, gymnastics and beach volleyball—the latter, reported to be for reasons that the sportswear was “not suitable for Myanmar culture”.
Meanwhile, substitutes were found in traditional but rare disciplines such as vovinam (a martial arts form, originally Vietnamese) and chinlone (an acrobatic Burmese rattan ball game). This led to letters of complaint from Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Paired with the sports minister’s words about targeting as many medals as possible, it’s clear Myanmar got off to a bad start in the game of public relations. more…