SEA Games: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to attend opening ceremony

The organization of the 30th edition of the Southeast Asian Games has been mocked and marred by complaints. Above, the athletic stadium for the Games in New Clark City, Tarlac. (AFP)
Updated 30 November 2019

SEA Games: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to attend opening ceremony

  • The organization of the 30th edition of the SEA Games has been mocked and marred by complaints
  • Duterte had pledged a probe into the troubled run-up to the Games’ opening ceremony

CLARK, Philippines: President Rodrigo Duterte will attend Saturday’s opening ceremony of the Southeast Asian Games, the presidential palace said, a day after the Philippine leader apologized for the chaotic build-up.
The organization of the 30th edition of the SEA Games has been mocked and marred by complaints about transport, accommodation and food as thousands of athletes have flooded into the Philippines for the biggest-ever edition of the multi-sport event.
And the threat of an approaching typhoon — forecasted to hit the north of the country early next week — looms large.
Duterte had pledged a probe into the troubled run-up to the Games’ opening ceremony at the Philippine Arena, around 25 kilometers north of the capital Manila, after a rush of logistical problems and last-minute construction.
“I’m really apologizing for the country ... they (other nations) should know while they are still here that the government is not happy,” Duterte said in an interview that aired Friday.
“You cannot just cast away all those — the discomfort, the sufferings of the athletes, sleeping on the floors, getting hungry,” he added. “To the countries that sent them here, it’s a big deal.”
He also instructed organizers to release complimentary tickets to many of the 56 sports at the SEA Games to locals.
The Philippines was bracing for a typhoon which national forecasters warned was maintaining its strength.
PAGASA said Typhoon Kammuri — which is packing gusts of 185 kilometers per hour and maximum sustained winds of 150 kph (93 mph) — is presently heading right for Games venues in the north of the country and is expected to make landfall on Tuesday.
As the build-up woes cast a shadow over the Games, Indonesia clinched the first gold medal of the competition with a historic victory, bringing Singapore’s 54-year stranglehold on the men’s water polo competition to an end.
With only sailing, windsurfing and netball on the sporting schedule on Saturday, all eyes will be on the opening ceremony, which starts at 7 p.m. (1100 GMT).
Many of the details remain a secret, although the show’s director, Filipino writer Floy Quintos, shared a photo on Facebook of hundreds of performers in colorful costumes on stage.
“Yes, the show is a spectacle,” wrote the award-winning playwright, adding the image showed a people “united.”
“And the power of spectacle is one that has been used, worldwide by the powerful to further agendas. But it is in the hands of the spectacle’s creators to patch together some meaning, some cohesion, some message that goes beyond the political.”
This year’s Games in Clark, Manila and Subic, which run through to December 11, are particularly complex with a record 56 sports across dozens of venues that are in some cases hours’ drives apart, even before Manila’s notorious gridlock traffic is factored in.


Riyadh to host inaugural Saudi international cycling race

Updated 22 January 2020

Riyadh to host inaugural Saudi international cycling race

  • This new race represents an exciting organizational challenge, a coherent sporting event for an entire category of riders

JEDDAH: Sports chiefs are gearing up to announce the Saudi city venue for a new international cycling race set to take place in the Kingdom.

Chairman of the Saudi General Sports Authority Prince Abdul Aziz bin Turki Al-Faisal is expected to reveal on Thursday that Riyadh will host the five-stage Saudi Tour 2020 from Feb. 4 to 8.

The inaugural edition of the 2.1 category race is being staged by Amaury Sport Organization (ASO), the organizer of the world-famous Tour de France.

Details of the route in and around the Saudi capital were due to be released during a press conference at Riyadh’s Digital City.

The cycling event precedes the Tour of Oman (Feb. 11 to 16) which is facing cancelation following the death of Sultan Qaboos.

ASO chief executive, Yann Le Moenner, said: “We are involved in the emergence of a new racing scene in the Middle East, which corresponds to the riders’ demand at the beginning of the year.

“The creation of the Saudi Tour and its sustainable installation in the calendar is part of this movement. This new race represents an exciting organizational challenge, a coherent sporting event for an entire category of riders, and a nice opportunity for the television viewers who follow the race to discover new landscapes.

“This is also, for us, an occasion to contribute to the development of cycling across the Kingdom,” he added.

Saudi Cycling Federation chief Sabah Al-Kraidees said it was an “honor” to have the inaugural Saudi Tour, noting that the event would help to promote the Kingdom as a tourist destination.

“The Saudi Tour is a great opportunity to publicize the country’s varied territories and historic sites and to let visitors discover our sense of hospitality. This initiative fits perfectly with the ambition of Saudi Arabia to promote the Kingdom beyond its borders through sports and especially cycling,” he added.

The five-day event will feature stages in the hills around Riyadh and on urban circuits.

The Kingdom recently began issuing tourist visas after travel to the country was largely limited to pilgrims, business travelers and resident workers.