The Manila SEA Games is officially slated to start on November 30 but some events would start five days earlier. Just as in previous Games, questions of whether the hosts are ready with all the arrangements, is being asked once again.
Is hosting the biennial Games worth it?
The cost of hosting the SEA Games has ballooned multiple times in recent years. The Philippines Games is expected to cost an estimated P7.5 billion (RM1.614b) with the Filipino government forking out a whopping P6.1 billion (RM1.313b).
The KL SEA Games saw the government allocating RM450 million and close to RM100 million collected through sponsorship. This was not inclusive of the millions more allocated for the preparation of the national athletes as well as for the upgrading of venues. The upgrading of the venues alone was close to RM1 billion.
Singapore SEA Games in 2015 was hosted at an estimated RM740 million while Myanmar spent close to RM 1 billion in 2013.
When the Philippines last hosted the Games in 2005, it spent less than P300 (RM65 million). The SEA Games this year was originally to be hosted by Brunei, but Brunei declined because of “organizational reasons”.
To host the Games, countries have to invest in building or improving existing infrastructures including venues. Myanmar, for instance invested in building new facilities in their new capital city of Naypittaw.
Without government injection of funds, hosting the SEA Games would never be possible. None of the previous SEA Games have ever been organised without major funding from the respective government.
While how the funds were spent comes under the scrutiny of relevant government agencies, issues of corruption in awarding contracts and mismanagement of fund also arises during these multi-sports events.
Hosting the Games is seen as an avenue to promote ASEAN relationships through sports and not about the money spent. But many also feel that the money spent should be for the benefit of locals.
They suggest that investment in social issues, such as education and health care, would be a a better way to promote and achieve the general good for the citizens. This is especially so when countries like the Philippines have plenty of social problems to tackle.
Since it inception, the SEA Games has also established itself as an important social institution to unearth new sporting talents and heroes as well as promoting a healthy society.
Hosting the Games also sees the participation of volunteers, that in turn contributes to the education and positive lifestyle of the younger generation.
And if the hosts own athletes rake in the medals, just as Malaysia did two years ago, it also creates a general sense of happiness.
But all these is seen only as a temporary benefit s and measures, as once the Games are over, people have to get back to their normal grind.
Take a look at what happened in Brazil after they hosted the Olympics. It did not improve the lives of the common Brazilians as they had to face the burden of a poor economy.
Olympic venues built at the cost of millions ended up in a state of abandonment and disrepair.
How is the Philippines coping with the preparation for the Games? Whilst the organising committee is putting up a brave front, it is not all that rosy behind the scenes.
Some venues are still not ready, forcing the delay in setting up the facilities and equipment needed. The IT management system for registration and results is still not fully operational. Questions on the readiness of the traffic flow for the Games may not be answered until the Games itself goes into full swing.
The KL Games in 2017 despite claims as the best by the hosts, was also plagued by numerous problems including the IT system and ticketing.
Hosting the SEA Games can be troublesome and put a strain on the daily lives of the host city’s residents. The Philippines are expected to increase security not only at the venues but in the whole city for the Games.
The Philippine National Police (PNP) is set to enforce a gun ban covering Calabarzon, Central Luzon, La Union, and Metro Manila during the Games.
The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) has issued “no-fly zones” during the opening and closing ceremonies in surrounding areas of the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan and New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac.
The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) has also recommended the suspension of classes in at least seven universities and colleges in Manila as part of its traffic management plans. The MMDA has also announced a stop and go traffic system flow and this would most certainly see motorists and commuters being delayed with their daily routines.
Such changes are not peculiar to Manila and is common feature to any hosts of the Games. Not all residents relish the thought of having to endure such changes to their daily routine.
Is hosting the SEA Games worth it?
It all depends to whom you are talking to and when the conversation takes place – before, during or after.