Philippines: SEA Games in chaos as players go hungry and athletes sleep on floor

(The Guardian) – The organisers behind the Southeast Asian Games have apologised after complaints emerged of football teams sleeping on floors, airport delays and athletes complaining of going hungry.

The organising committee said sorry for the “inconveniences” including hotels not being ready and teams waiting at the airport for hours, ahead of the competition, which starts this weekend.

Alan Cayetano, the chair of the games’ organising committee, said: “We are apologising for the inconveniences or if I may call it inefficiencies or miscoordination.”

Filipino social media users have compared the Philippines’ hosting effort to the spectacular and expensive failure of the Fyre Festival in the Bahamas.

Last weekend, the football teams from Timor Leste and Myanmar waited hours at the airport before games’ organisers arrived to shuttle them to their hotels.

Photos of the Cambodian team sleeping on a conference room floor because their accommodation wasn’t ready have circulated on social media, and Thai athletes also complained there were not enough rooms, forcing them to squeeze three athletes into rooms for two.

Singapore’s chef de mission, Juliana Seow, complained about transportation and insufficient halal food for his team’s athletes. Seow wrote to the games’ organisers: “We urgently seek your urgent and immediate attention to address the situations we are facing. We had tried our best to be patient and understanding.”

Vietnam’s team has also asked for portion sizes to be increased, with the hotel asking them to formally apply to organisers for bigger meals.

Days before the games formally open, construction workers were still rushing to finish the venues. The first football match between Myanmar and Malaysia – the football competition starts early – at the renovated Rizal Memorial Stadium proceeded without a scoreboard.

Even the local women’s football teams have complained about not being served enough food and water at their hotel. In a press conference, coach Let Dimzon said “the quality and quantity of food is not enough” and lacked the nutrients the athletes need for their training.Players said there were forced to pack four or five players into twin rooms. “Sad that we’re the host team and this is how we’re being treated,” said defender Hali Long on FaceSpace. “I cannot imagine how other countries must feel.”

Last week, there was consternation when it emerged the government had paid about $1m for a cauldron for the opening ceremony in Bocaue, Bulacan, even while basic facilities were unfinished.

Cayetano remained defensive, claiming 95% of the participating athletes were satisfied with the services of the organising committee.

President Rodrigo Duterte has distanced himself from the public anger and his spokesperson placed the responsibility squarely on Cayetano. Spokesperson Salvador Panelo apologised for “unintentional inconvenience suffered by our athlete guests” and said Duterte “will not offer any excuses”.