SEA Games to see fewer obscure sports, better alignment with Olympic programme

·3 min read
The traditional martial art of vovinam being competed at the 2013 SEA Games in Naypyidaw, Myanmar.
The traditional martial art of vovinam being competed at the 2013 SEA Games in Naypyidaw, Myanmar. (PHOTO: Soe Than Win/AFP via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Future Southeast Asia (SEA) Games could see fewer obscure sports in the programme, as Asean sports ministers are supporting a stronger alignment of the sports programme to those of the Asian and Olympic Games.

The biennial SEA Games features a wide variety of sports in its programme, including non-Olympic sports such as bowling, squash and wushu, as well as traditional sports such as arnis, chinlone, vovinam and shuttlecock kicking. 

Aside from two mandatory sports disciplines - athletics and aquatics - host nations were free to drop or introduce other sports with no official limit to the number of disciplines at each Games. This has led to criticism of SEA Games hosts maximising their medal hauls by dropping sports disadvantageous to themselves, and introducing obscure sports to pad up their medal tallies.

However, it was agreed during the 6th Asean Ministerial Meeting on Sports on Thursday (28 October) that aligning sport selection across the Games will create more opportunities for Southeast Asian athletes to compete and to build a stronger foundation in the lead up to Asian and Olympic Games.

"(I) am confident that this would be the first of many steps in providing our athletes that additional edge to do well at major sporting events," said Edwin Tong, Singapore's Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, who chaired the virtual meeting.

Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong at 6th Asean Ministerial Meeting on Sports. (PHOTO: Minister for Culture, Community and Youth)
Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Edwin Tong at 6th Asean Ministerial Meeting on Sports. (PHOTO: Minister for Culture, Community and Youth)

Adopting Asean Work Plan on Sports 2021-2025

The biennial meeting is attended by sports ministers and representatives from the 10 Asean member states. This is the first time Singapore has chaired the meeting since its inception in 2011.

During the meeting, the ministers adopted the Asean Work Plan on Sports 2021-2025, which maps out the broad direction for Asean sports collaborations in the next five years.

As part of the work plan, Singapore willl lead anti-doping efforts in the region by working closely with the World Anti-Doping Agency and the Southeast Asia Regional Anti-Doping Organisation to increase the capability and capacity of national anti-doping organisations by raising awareness and training officials.

The city-state will also share best practices in high performance sports with fellow member states, as well as share expertise and insights on health and wellness through Sport Singapore’s Active Health programme.

The sports ministers also acknowledged the value of the Asean Active Citizens Worldwide (ACW) benchmark report on sports participation, which surveyed over 15,000 respondents across 10 Asean cities over nine months this year.

The report studied how sports can be leveraged to bring about better health, social and economic outcomes for member states and the Asean community. 

It also provides the member states with a better understanding of how government policies could be designed and adapted to realise the socio-economic benefits of sports. This includes how to improve sports participation rates amid the challenges of COVID-19, and how to uplift communities through an active and healthy lifestyle. 

"This regional benchmark report will provide Asean member states with recommendations and insights in designing better sport policies for our citizens and increasing sports participation in Asean," Tong said in his opening speech for the meeting.

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