KUALA LUMPUR, July 19 — Today marks the 30-day countdown to the Kuala Lumpur 2017 SEA Games, the biggest biennial multi-sport event in South East Asia, scheduled from August 19-30, although some events start even before the official opening.
Malaysia as the host of the 29th edition are certainly under pressure to deliver a games of the highest quality, since the country would be hosting the biennial games for the sixth time after having hosted in 1965, 1971, 1977, 1989 and 2001.
The 29th edition, which will feature 38 sports that offer 404 gold medals, serves as a platform for athletes in South East Asia to showcase their talent and emerge as the best in the region before stepping into the more elite fields of Asia and Europe.
“Everyone involved in the games, organising committee, associations, athletes, officials will feel the heat of the games during the preparations period and when the games is in motion. However, within the next 30 days, the entire SEA Games family in the country must start playing a more active role to ensure no stones are left unturned in the run up to the final stretch to avoid any glitches.
“Everyone, be it the athletes, coaches, coordinators, organiser, are aware of their respective duties. All issues or problems arising during these moments must be resolved as a team,” National Sports Council (NSC) director-general Datuk Ahmad Shapawi Ismail told Bernama.
According to Shapawi, preparations for the games had been planned and carried out in the best possible manner while the only part remaining is the final phase of the training camp that will be attended by all athletes from August 4, where they will prepare for the final push.
“Athletes, who will be representing the country in the SEA Games for the first time, cannot run away from the fact that they will be under tremendous pressure to justify their presence in the Malaysian contingent. They must quickly acclimatise themselves with the competitive environment and competition venues.
“The aspect of logistics must also be taken into consideration, especially whether they (athletes) will be staying in hostels or games village during the games. When they are not staying in the games village, it will be a big challenge to maintain discipline,” said Ahmad Shapawi.
The tradition observed by the South East Asian Games Federation (SEAGF) in choosing the host country is by a rotation format but the selected country can accept or decline to host the games.
In July 2012, it was decided during the SEAGF meeting in Myanmar that Malaysia would be given the honour to host the 2017 SEA Games, since Brunei who were initially given the host job, according to the rotation format, declined.
The organisation aspects aside, the performance of the Malaysian contingent at the SEA Games would always come under the microscope and a hot topic of conversation among Malaysians due to the inconsistent performance and achievement of athletes.
This is because the SEA Games normally becomes a venue for host countries to introduce sports that give them an added advantage, normally including traditional sports in their own country, to collect extra medals as other countries would not be proficient enough in such sports.
However, unlike other host countries, Malaysia has decided to include sports that are basically contested in the Olympics, Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.
Meanwhile, according to deputy chef-de-mission for the Malaysian contingent, M. Kumaresan who is a former National cyclist, Malaysia as the host has worked very hard to ensure preparations for the SEA Games is on the right track and competition venues are ready and tested to avoid any hitches during competition.
“All competition venues are ready and the games will start according to the schedule. We have visited all the venues to ensure there are no glitches in preparing the venues and facilities,” he said.
The former SEA Games cyclist said competing on home soil was always a proud moment.
“As athletes we would do our very best to deliver the best because we are representing the country. The final phase of training camp will focus on preparing the athletes mentally through various motivational initiatives. All preparations had started immediately after the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore,” said Kumaresan who represented the country in the 1989 SEA Games hosted by Malaysia.
The year 2001 when Malaysia hosted the SEA Games will remain etched on everyone’s memory since Malaysia not only gained the accolade of hosting a memorable games but also became the overall champion by winning 111 gold medals, the highest achievement in the history of the Games.
The Malaysian SEA Games Organising Committee (MASOC) has chosen three main locations to host the various sports in the programme, namely the KL Sports City in Bukit Jalil, Kuala Lumpur Convention Centre (KLCC) and Malaysian International Trade Exhibition Centre (MITEC), also in the city.
However, competition venues for the SEA Games are spread in other parts of the country, 25 locations to be exact, throughout Kuala Lumpur, Selangor, Terengganu, Negeri Sembilan and Langkawi. — Bernama