Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte attended yesterday’s opening ceremony of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games a day after the Philippine leader apologized for the chaotic build-up.
The organization of the 30th edition of the 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 multisports event, while the threat of an approaching typhoon — forecast to hit the north of the country early next week — looms large.
A bus carrying Vietnamese athletes accidentally bumped the rear of another bus loaded with Laotian athletes on the way to the opening ceremony, causing minor injuries and shattering the windows of one of the vehicles, police said.
Duterte had pledged a probe into the troubled run-up to the Games’ opening ceremony at the Philippine Arena, about 25km 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 on Friday.
“You cannot just cast away all those — the discomfort, the sufferings of the athletes, sleeping on the floors, getting hungry,” he said.
“To the countries that sent them here, it’s a big deal,” he said.
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.
The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said that Typhoon Kammuri — which is packing gusts of 185km per hour and maximum sustained winds of 150kph — 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 yesterday, all eyes were on the opening ceremony, which began shortly before press time last night.
This year’s Games in Clark, Manila and Subic, which run through Dec. 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.
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