30th SEA Games: Asean’s elite athletes abandoned at Manila airport (video)

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The 2019 SEA Games are getting off to a less than stellar start with incomplete venues, arrangements for volunteers in disarray, and three national Asean football teams left stranded on arrival at Manila airport.

Reports started trickling out on the social media platform Twitter yesterday afternoon (Nov 23) of Asean national football teams arriving at Ninoy Aquino International Airport only to find no transport to their hotels waiting for them.

When transport eventually did arrive at the airport, it was one of the country’s new ‘busney’s‘; not particularly suitable to transporting a sporting team and its equipment.

Photos of the Cambodia national football team sleeping on the floor and on chairs were the first to begin circulating on social media, with supporters of other Asean national football teams affected rapidly following.

Thailand national football team needs to step through construction material and debris to get to the training ground.
Video FootballSiam

The humiliating manner in which the visiting athletes were being treated saw Filipino netizens flock to social media channels to extend their apologies, while at the same time berating the organising committee for causing the country to be embarrassed in such a manner.

News reports that the Singapore National Olympic Council (SNOC) had warned Singaporean athletes not to leave the official SEA Games 2019 venue and is deploying a ‘whereabouts’ reporting system to track Team Singapore members’ movements for security purposes only added to the uproar.

This morning (Nov 24) Philippine broadcaster ABS-CBN News published a report citing a statement quoting an unnamed representative of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc) apologising over the football teams being left stranded at Manila airport.

While admitting its failure, the statement attempted to deflect some of the the blame on to teams that had changed their travel schedules, while others had arrived ‘before the check-in time’ of 2pm.

That some teams were travelling on the only daily flight was apparently inconsequential to the organisers.

Phisgoc conditional mea-culpa

‘We sincerely apologise to our athlete guests from Timor-Leste, Myanmar and Cambodia for the inconvenience caused to them by the confusion regarding their transportation and hotel arrangements.

‘While Phisgoc strives to ensure proper coordination of the arrival details, airport welcome and transportation provisions of all international teams to their respective assigned hotels, we acknowledge our shortcomings in this particular incident and vow to do better’, the statement attributed to Phisgoc allegedly said.

AEC News Today has been unable to locate the statement, or contact the 30th SEA Games organising committee.

The 30th SEA Games website does not contain an email address, while its media section leads to a closed portal. At the time of writing it does not appear to have a Twitter account, and it is not monitoring its Facebook messages. Telephone calls went unanswered.

Waiting, waiting, sleeping

The Cambodia national team sleeps on the floor (L) as the Timor Leste national team waits at the Manila airport
The Cambodia national football team sleeps on the floor (L) as the Timor Leste national football team waits for a ‘busney’ at Manila airport ASEAN Football News

At a media conference in Manila earlier today Cambodian football coach Félix Dalmás reportedly said that his team “waited 8 to 9 hours to get to our hotel”, with no explanation being given for the delay.

Also left stranded at Manila airport was the Myanmar national football team and the Timor Leste national football team, the latter also being taken to the incorrect hotel.

Speaking through his translator, Thailand national team manager Akira Nishino, told the same media conference “I would want the players to have a good environment and good perfect meal. I’m wishing the organiser can provide for our team players.” He had earlier said the the Thailand national football team were being served the same food repeatedly.

Also coming in for criticism was the athletes’ food, and the time required for teams to travel for training.

On Saturday Thailand and Timor Leste both forfeited their training slots due to Manila’s notorious traffic congestion and apparently, poor planing by organisers.

Thailand national football team trains in the street

Scaffolding still encasing parts of the 2019 SEA Games football stadium (Rizal Memorial Stadium) Nov 24.
Scaffolding still encasing parts of the 30th SEA Games football stadium (Rizal Memorial Stadium) Nov 24. Supplied

Describing the two-hour long failed commute to the practice ground yesterday (Nov 23) as “not realistic”, Mr Nishino said that as “we cannot make it by the time, so we have to manage to make training in the streets last night”.

Having athletes stuck in the traffic may be the least of sports fans worries.

A resident close to Rizal Memorial Stadium where the football tournament of the 2019 SEA Games will begin tomorrow sent AEC News Today a photograph showing work still apparently underway today (Nov 24), with part of the structure still surrounded by scaffolding.

Rehabilitation works on the sporting ground had only begun in September, the resident said.

The football tournament in the SEA Games begins tomorrow (Nov 25), with the 2019 SEA games official opening to take place on November 30. The games will conclude on December 11, with more than 500 athletic competitions taking place in between.

Intrusive 30th SEA Games mobile app

The 2019 SEA Games mobile app requires invasive personal information to use
The 2019 SEA Games mobile app requires invasive personal information to use

In an interview with ABS-CBN News earlier today, Ramos Suzara, Phisgoc chief operating officer, said that 50 out of 56 venues had been completed.

AEC News Today was eventually able to download the 2019 SEA Games (10th Asean Para Games) mobile app developed as part of the PHP9 billion (about US$176 mln) budget to host the games, but abandoned it due to the extremely invasive private data required to use.

AEC News Today was unable to contact the national teams for Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar, or Timor Leste prior to publication.



Feature video ABS-CBN




  • Myanmar football team unhappy with cramped team buses provided by SEA Games 2019 organisers (Fox Sports Asia)
  • Chaotic start to the 2019 SEA Games for Malaysia and other teams (goal.com)
  • Philippines sorry over stranded SEA Games teams (The Malaysian Insight)



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John Le Fevre

Thailand editor at AEC News Today

John is an Australian national with more than 40 years experience as a journalist, photographer, videographer, and copy editor.

He has spent extensive periods of time working in Africa and throughout Southeast Asia, with stints in the Middle East, the USA, and England.

He has covered major world events including Operation Desert Shield/ Storm, the 1991 pillage in Zaire, the 1994 Rwanda genocide, the 1999 East Timor independence unrest, the 2004 Asian tsunami, and the 2009, 2010, and 2014 Bangkok political protests.

In 1995 he was a Walkley Award finalist, the highest awards in Australian journalism, for his coverage of the 1995 Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) Ebola outbreak.

Prior to AEC News Today he was the deputy editor and Thailand and Greater Mekong Sub-region editor for The Establishment Post, predecessor of Asean Today.

In the mid-80s and early 90s he owned JLF Promotions, the largest above and below the line marketing and PR firm servicing the high-technology industry in Australia. It was sold in 1995.

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