‘World-class’ Southeast Asian Games end with rocking closing ceremony

Athletes march during the closing ceremony of the SEA Games (Southeast Asian Games) at the athletics stadium in Clark, north of Manila, on Dec. 11, 2019. (AFP / TED ALJIBE)
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Updated 12 December 2019

‘World-class’ Southeast Asian Games end with rocking closing ceremony

  • Around 8,750 athletes and officials took part in the biggest-ever SEA Games across ten days of competition
  • For the first time ever eSports became a medal event at an Olympic-recognized multi-sport competition

CLARK, Philippines: The 30th Southeast Asia Games ended on Wednesday with a rocking closing ceremony in the 20,000-seater purpose-built stadium in Clark, as host nation Philippines ran away winners with 149 gold medals.
After a chaotic start beset by organizational gaffes, a presidential apology and online mockery, the Games were briefly hit by a deadly typhoon, but organizers worked round the clock to get the schedule back on track.
“This year, Christmas has come early,” chairman of the organizing committee Alan Peter Cayetano said to thousands of flag-waving fans in the stadium after each country’s athletes had paraded by.
“We Southeast Asians, we Filipinos, have shown the world that we can do it with world class quality.”
Around 8,750 athletes and officials took part in the biggest-ever SEA Games across ten days of competition, involving sportsmen and women from 11 countries in venues across Clark, Manila and Subic in the country’s north.

Medal standings n the South East Asia Games 2019. (Courtesy: SEAG 2019 official site)

Once the celebrations have died down however, organizers will face a government probe after the embarrassing build-up to the Games generated the wrong kind of headlines and a mocking hashtag #SEAGamesFail.
The Games were also slammed by Typhoon Kammuri which forced about half of the events to be rescheduled for one day.

Kammuri’s fierce winds toppled trees and flattened flimsy homes across a swathe of the nation’s north, and forced a rare 12-hour shutdown of Manila’s international airport.
Despite 13 deaths in the storm, none of the athletes, officials or 12,000 volunteers was reported hurt and a full program resumed soon after.
At the Games’ many venues there were disappointing performances for some of the region’s biggest stars.
Singaporean Olympic champion Joseph Schooling was expected to take several golds in the pool, but walked away with just one individual title.
The 24-year-old famously beat his idol, US legend Michael Phelps, at the Rio 2016 Olympics in the 100m butterfly final, but was out of form and out of shape just seven months away from Tokyo 2020.
And home favorite, the world champion gymnast Carlos Yulo, won just two out of the seven golds he was going for.

In the most heroic highlight of the Games, Filipino surfer Roger Casugay leapt from his board to help an Indonesian opponent who had gotten into difficulty in choppy waters. Casugay become an online sensation and earned praises from the president of Indonesia. He later went on to win a gold medal, even beating the rival he rescued on his way to glory.

However, there were some impressive displays, including many from Vietnam who came second with 98 golds, including the men’s football title.
For many though, the actions of local surfer Roger Casugay will be the highlight of the Games.
Casugay became an online sensation after he leapt from his board to help an opponent who had got into difficulty in choppy waters.
He later went on to win a gold medal, even beating the rival he rescued on his way to glory.
And for the first time ever eSports became a medal event at an Olympic-recognized multi-sport competition.
Players from nine countries competed at a darkened arena in Manila over six days for medals in Mobile Legends, Arena of Valor, Dota 2, Starcraft II, Tekken 7 and Hearthstone.
To mark the official end of the Games thousands heard a medley of rock songs by former Journey lead singer, the Filipino Arnel Pineda, whose setlist included “Sweet Child o Mine” by Guns N’ Roses and Queen’s “We Will Rock You.”



Atletico catching all the breaks in Champions League

Updated 16 min 17 sec ago

Atletico catching all the breaks in Champions League

  • A victory against Leipzig will put Atletico back in the semifinals for the first time since 2017

LISBON: So far so good for Atletico Madrid in the quest for their first Champions League title.

Diego Simeone’s team have caught all the breaks going into the decisive final-eight tournament in Lisbon.

Old foes Real Madrid and Cristiano Ronaldo are gone. They drew Leipzig instead of a more traditional powerhouse for the quarterfinals. And their rival lost its top player after Timo Werner left for Chelsea. Even when things went wrong and the squad was hit by COVID-19, Atletico avoided the worst as only two players were infected and they could still make the trip to Portugal.

Things have been looking good for Simeone and his players.

A victory against Leipzig on Thursday will put Atletico back in the semifinals for the first time since it was eliminated by Ronaldo’s Madrid in the last four in 2017. Ronaldo and Madrid had defeated Atletico in the final in 2014 and 2016, and also ended the rival’s run in the quarterfinals in 2015.

Ronaldo again was Atletico’s nemesis last season after joining Juventus. Atletico lost to the Italian team in the round of 16 after Ronaldo scored a hat trick in the decisive second leg in Turin.

But this time Ronaldo and Juventus were eliminated by Lyon in the last 16, the same stage in which Madrid were knocked out of the tournament by Manchester City. Only two past champions are still left in the competition — Barcelona and Bayern Munich — and they play against each other in the opposite side of the draw, meaning Atletico could only meet one of them in the final.

Leipzig are a relative newcomer to the Champions League, having reached the group stage only twice. This is the first time they made it to the knockout round. They eliminated Tottenham in the round of 16, but now they won't count on top scorer Werner, who did not extend his contract by a few weeks to finish the season with the German club before moving to Chelsea.

Atletico stunned defending European champion Liverpool in the last 16, advancing after a 3-2 win in England.

“The game against Liverpool will go down in history and was one of the best we’ve had in a long time,” Atletico striker Diego Costa said. “It gave fans high expectations and we will give our best to try to meet those expectations. Hopefully we will play well and luck will stay on our side.”

Costa said Atletico will not take Leipzig lightly despite  the rival’s lack of experience in international competitions.

“They are very strong on the ball and know what they are about,” he said. “They have made it to the quarterfinals and have no pressure.”

There was a scare within Atletico this week when it announced two positive test results for COVID-19 among the group that was traveling to Lisbon. There were concerns that an outbreak within the club could have affected the team’s participation in the tournament in Portugal, but new tests showed that only Ángel Correa and Sime Vrsaljko were infected and the squad could travel to Lisbon.

Vrsaljko was not even going to play because he is nursing an injury, while Correa isn't among Atletico’s top stars even though he led the team in assists this season.

After coming agonizingly close recently, Atletico hope the breaks will keep going their way and that they  will finally get to lift the coveted European trophy.