After a proposal to postpone the SEA Games was rejected last year and the doubts thrown at the country earlier this year due to a COVID-19 resurgence, looks like Vietnam’s hosting of the 31st Southeast Asian Games is finally coming to fruition.
Vietnam is now getting ready to welcome about 7,000 athletes and coaches from the region who will be competing in 40 sports from May 12 to 23 in Hanoi and 11 other neighboring towns. The sporting competition was initially scheduled for November 2021 but was canceled due to the pandemic.
To prepare for the region’s largest biennial sports event, a traditional “countdown” ceremony was held yesterday in the Vietnamese capital. City officials and SEA Games organizers spearheaded the event, which also included lion dance performances and a marathon.
Hanoi People’s Committee Chu Ngoc Anh told Vietnam News that the city wants to hold a safe and successful sporting event and “leave beautiful memories with international friends.”
“[The SEA Games] is also a way to popularize Vietnam's amazing landscapes and friendly people to the world.”
With a contingent of more than 1,300 members, Vietnam will be the largest delegation to compete next month. Thailand will be sending 888 athletes, the Philippines 643, Malaysia 654, Indonesia 541, Singapore 471, Myanmar 352, East Timor 69 and Brunei 24. As of this writing, Cambodia and Laos — which share land borders with Vietnam — have yet to send their list of delegates.
This is the second time the country is hosting SEA Games. Vietnam last hosted SEA Games back in 2003 in Ho Chi Minh City, where it ruled as the overall champion.
The country targets to win 140 of the 526 gold medals, which is an achievable goal according to Vietnam’s sports administration, after the country dominated in the last two Games, ranking third and second in 2017and 2019, respectively. Vietnam currently ranks sixth in the all-time medal tally, with 2886 gold, silver and bronze medals.
The event in May will see Hanoi and other northern provinces, including Bach Ninh, Hai Duong and Quang Ninh, get crowded again after a two-year border closure. Thousands of spectators are expected to flock to the venues. With Vietnam’s full reopening to all travelers, foreign tourists are also seen to take part in the event. The Vietnamese government has reportedly set aside a budget of $69 million to stage the event.
The organizers reiterated that the safety of the residents and the delegations against COVID-19 will be of utmost priority. While specific measures and policies have not been issued yet, Nguyen Van Phu from the organizing committee noted in December that all athletes and coaches will be mandated to undergo regular testing during the Games. The committee will also set up testing facilities in competition and non-competition venues.
Vietnam’s COVID-19 cases have already surpassed 10 million. But the country is seeing a consistent decrease in the number of daily cases in the last few days. The country has already achieved herd immunity against coronavirus, having fully vaccinated 77.3 million people or 80.1% of its entire population.