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Was the 2019 Philippines SEA Games really that bad? Here’s what we found there.

[Artikel ni asalnya ditulis kawan-kawan kami kat Soscili. Kalau nak baca artikel ni dalam BM, klik sini!]


The Southeast Asian (SEA) Games is a sporting event spanning the Southeast Asian region – think of it as the Olympics in the Southeast Asian confines. Malaysia itself has even hosted the SEA Games a total of six times! However, the 2019 SEA Games was hosted in the Philippines, and all eyes were on the country since it decided to volunteer after Brunei had decided to step back from hosting.

And, well, if you’ve been on Twitter or Facebook last month, you might have known how Philippines’ hosting efforts had gone, since this little hashtag went viral: #seagames2019fail. In this hashtag was a seemingly endless array of details about how much of a failure the 2019 SEA Games had been, drawing criticism towards the event’s organizer: the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC).

Apparently, the team buses that were supposed to bring the athletes to their hotels were delayed due to traffic, the hotel check-ins were so slow that athletes had to bake under the sun while waiting, and the stadium was an incomplete structure, among others.

This is just part of it.

This is just part of it.

It was apparently so bad that it was placed on the same pedestal as the disastrous Fyre Festival. If you’ve heard of the Fyre Festival, you probably know that it was a pretty big festival flop.

Still, it is important to note that major events like this, like the SEA Games or the Olympics, have a tendency to become bad deals on a country’s budget and cash flow. And while in the past, countries would all try to get their hands on the pie of being a host country, it has been said that the number of countries volunteering to host events like the Olympics have declined due to declining profits and potential inflation. For example, Vancouver and Sochi were nearly driven to bankruptcy for hosting Winter Olympics in 2010 and 2014 respectively.

But the 2019 SEA Games can’t be that bad, right? After all, the SEA Games is a pretty important regional multi-sport event that has the attention of probably all of Southeast Asian sport fans every year. Luckily, one of our colleagues over at SOSCILI actually made it there to find out, thanks to our friends at Taylor’s University – and here’s what they saw firsthand.


1. If you thought KL traffic was bad, you’ve not seen Philippines.

Imagine expecting to reach your destination in two hours, but only making it in seven? Yep, our friends went through that horror, where they only made it to New Clark City in Philippines in seven hours when they were supposed to arrive in two. It’s good to know that nightmarish traffic isn’t just isolated to Federal and LDP highways.

The chaotic energy. GIF from Giphy

To be fair, Metro Manila reportedly has the world’s worst traffic congestion. Well, according to Waze anyway. Even the Asian Development Bank is in agreement, saying that it might be due to lack of efficient public transport.

“When I get home, it’s already 10pm. I could be using that time sleep more, rest more. Instead, my time gets wasted.” – Philippines citizen Oliver Emocling, as quoted by SCMP

Traffic so bad weyh. GIF from Manila Livewire

Traffic so bad weyh boat also faster. GIF from Manila Livewire

So to tackle this issue, President Rodrigo Duterte did make fixing the road system part of his manifesto in 2016. But he didn’t successfully get around to doing it, because the traffic system in Manila was…too complicated. But still, Duterte did try to change things around from another angle, such as approving a law that encourages employees to work from home.

On top of that, Duterte even lashed out at the Philippines Congress’ for failing to pass the budget on time, which has caused more problems for the traffic congestion issue that has been worsening overtime.

But for now, there seems to be no end in sight for hours-long travel time in Manila. And as if the traffic thing wasn’t bad enough, something else made things more difficult for them.


2. Hotel check-ins were really slow

Now, in case you haven’t caught up with the supposed mess around living arrangements during the 2019 SEA Games, this tweet below might be the best example of it all.

Apparently, athletes were found sleeping on the floor because of insufficient rooms, or even sent to the wrong hotel. It turns out that the criticism regarding living arrangements might not have been unfounded, because our friends actually got stuck waiting for another two hours to check in to a hotel, though they actually made bookings at the hotel a month prior to the 2019 SEA Games. The excuse the hotel gave them was that they didn’t receive any booking of the sort :O

GIF from giphy

GIF from giphy

The athletes in the 2019 SEA Games faced a similar situation when it came to living arrangements and transport allegedly due to the organizer’s lack of coordination and proper planning. For example, a team from Timor-Leste had waited three hours for the team bus to drive them to their hotel, only to be brought to the wrong hotel.

Athletes stranded while waiting to be taken to the hotel. Image from Fox Sports Asia

Athletes stranded while waiting to be taken to the hotel. Image from Fox Sports Asia

In the case of our SOSCILI friends though, it wasn’t exactly the organizer’s fault, but apparently the fault of the agency handling the living arrangements for them. They ended up sent to a different hotel in the end. *sigh*

In the end, our friends had to endure seven hours of bad traffic, two hours of being stuck at a hotel, then another hour of traveling to the different hotel to finally get some rest for the next day, when they finally got to attend a SEA Games event.

Did ISIS recruit these terrorists from a Malaysian university?

And it turns out…


3. The 2019 SEA Games wasn’t that bad

Okay, so BBC previously reported that the primary stadium the Games was supposed to be held at, the Rizal Memorial Stadium, was actually still incomplete by the time the Games arrived. For example, it seemed that the press room was only a concrete room with plastic chairs and tables lined up; cubicles in the washrooms were not equipped with actual toilets; and workers were seen still laying down carpets on a game day.

While not all games were going to be held at the Rizal Stadium, it did serve as the venue for the football matches.

“You know I’ve been in all SEA Games, Asian Games, Olympics. We never had this treatment before in other countries.” – Former SEA Games committee member Monico Puentevella, as quoted by CNA

Construction tools found at the stadium. Image from BBC

Construction tools found at the stadium. Image from BBC

In any case, our friends were going to watch the swimming competitions at the 2019 SEA Games on the 9th of December at the New Clark City Aquatic Center. And from their experience, the aquatic center was much more different than the state of Rizal Memorial Stadium, as reported by BBC.

New Clark City Aquatic Center from the outside. Image from SOSCILI

New Clark City Aquatic Center from the outside. Image from SOSCILI

According to them, the building was actually complete with proper facilities. They managed to catch several swimming competitions, in which Malaysian athletes also participated.

Fun fact: Malaysia managed to snatch seven medals for the swimming competitions, with two golds, two silvers, and three bronzes #malaysiatrulyasia.

And the Filipinos were actually quite friendly too, not shying away from congratulating the Malaysian fans after Phee Jinq En won two gold medals for Malaysia.

Phee Jinq En (blue cap), who managed to snag two golds at the 2019 SEA Games. Image from the Star

Phee Jinq En (blue cap). Image from the Star

Now, you might be wondering why Taylor’s University decided to send their students and our friend from SOSCILI to the 2019 SEA Games? Well, it’s because of these two students of theirs: Sebastian Soon and Tia’a Faang Der. You might have seen their names circulating the news cycle recently, and that’s because they’re actually part of the Malaysian contingent sent to compete in the 2019 SEA Games as international swimming athletes O.O

Our SOSCILI friend holding the flag in the middle. Image from SOSCILI

Our SOSCILI pal Adi in the middle holding the flag, alongside our friends from Taylor’s University. Image from SOSCILI

So while Taylor’s University was sending the two competitors to Philippines for the 2019 SEA Games, it also kindly extended the offer to SOSCILI, and that’s how our friend from SOSCILI ended up going as well 😀


In the end, Philippines said sorry for the SEA Games 🙁

Headline from CNA

Headline from CNA

It’s safe to say that the 2019 SEA Games didn’t have a good start, but to their credit, Philippines did apologize for the confusion and inconvenience caused for participating athletes. In addition, Duterte called for an investigation into the 2019 SEA Games mishaps, including Rizal Memorial Stadium’s incomplete status.

“It’s a huge fund and there ought not to have been problems like even logistics and things.

And even in the food, and in the billeting of the hotel, they didn’t know which hotel… If you would ponder on it. It’s actually negligence or unforeseen events that you failed to prepare for.

These things could have been avoided if you used the money correctly.” – Duterte, as quoted by The Star

Maybe this could serve as a lesson for our neighboring countries when it’s their turn to host the SEA Games, even ourselves. Like…don’t host events in an incomplete stadium ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Image from Malaymail

Image from Malaymail

Regardless, there is always a silver lining. Malaysian athletes participating in the 2019 SEA Games managed to snag 56 gold, 57 silver, and 71 bronze medals. Everyone from our Youth and Sports Minister Syed Saddiq to our King congratulated our sportsmen for their achievements, with our King saying:

“His Majesty congratulates all the winners and is proud of their achievements. However, His Majesty also understands that there is still a lot of work to be done in improving the state of Malaysian sports.

The athletes, coaches, managers and the associations must persevere and keep pushing the boundaries to excel in their respective sports.

His Majesty encourages Malaysians to continue to pursue their dreams and to be inspired to be a success; for themselves and for the nation.” –  Yang di-Pertuan Agong Al-Sultan Abdullah Ri’ayatuddin Al-Mustafa Billah Shah, as quoted by NST

Oh, and congrats to all of our athletes from us too. 🙂

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