Finally, the 2019 Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) hosted by the Philippines begin today. This is the 30th they began in 1959 with six countries competing in 12 sports. Today’s games bring together athletes from 11 nations vying for medals in 56 sports in 530 events.
President Duterte will open the Games in ceremonies to be held at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan. The various sports competitions will be held in four clusters of venues — Clark, Subic-Olongapo, Metro Manila, and stand-alone venues in various parts of Luzon.
Athletics will be at the New Clark City Athletic Stadium in Capas, Tarlac, built specifically for SEAG 2019. Nearby is the New Clark City Aquatic Center for swimming, diving, and other water competitions. Baseball and softball, shooting, archery, golf, and judo are among the events to be held in nearby towns and cities.
The Metro Manila Cluster – including Rizal Memorial Stadium and Coliseum and SM Mall of Asia—will host skating, bowling, billiards, weightlifting, football, tennis, gymnastics, boxing, basketball, and several other sports.
Boat races, sailing, chess, triathlon, pentathlon are among the sports to be held in the Subic Cluster.
The Fourth Cluster, including Batangas, Cavite, Laguna, and La Union will host such sports as polo, football, and cycling,
The 2019 Games were originally awarded to Brunei in 2012 but it pulled out due to funding and other reasons. The Philippines agreed to take over, but after the Marawi Siege in 2017, the Philippine government also withdrew, as it needed the funds for the rehabilitation of Marawi. Thailand and Indonesia then offered to take over, but the Philippines announced a reversal of its withdrawal.
More recently, there has been some controversy over opposition charges on the funding of some projects, including that cauldron at Clark whose flame will be burning during the entire competition. Then came the problems met by arriving athletes and other allegations of incompetence by the organizing committee. President Duterte has ordered an investigation. But that will have to be done later, Malacanang said.
For today, all attention will be focused on the games that will bring together the best athletes of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand, East Timor, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The opening ceremony will be an opportunity for us to highlight our culture as a nation through design, music, and dance.
When the Southeast Asian games were first proposed in 1958 by delegates attending the Asian Games in Tokyo, the organizers said a regional sports event would help promote understanding and closer relations among the countries of this part of the world. Since the first games in 1959, they have been held every two years in pursuit of this goal.
It is in this spirit of regional unity that the 2019 Southeast Asian Games officially begin today. So let the games begin!