By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
Member nations of the Southeast Asian Games Federation (SEAG) have unanimously decided to postpone the 31st Vietnam SEA Games.
Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Bambol Tolentino announced this Thursday shortly after his virtual meeting with fellow SEAG counterparts.
Tolentino said member nations made the consensus for the health and safety of the athletes, officials and spectators.
“Di rin makapag-decide ang Vietnam, so tinulungan na lang namin. I think it’s the best decision for everyone dahil lahat naman apektado. Tulong na rin namin sa Vietnam,” Tolentino said, adding that the spike of COVID-19 cases in the region became the top reason for the postponement.
Tolentino said Vietnam was given 10 more days to decide when will be the next schedule of the SEAG, taking in consideration the schedule of various international tournaments particularly the 32nd edition that Cambodia is hosting in February 2023.
“May procedure pa kasi yan kaya di lang basta-basta made-decide,” Tolentino said.
Philippine Sports Commissioner Mon Fernandez, who is the PH Team’s chief of mission to the 31st SEAG, said they will have to discuss the next steps with the POC.
“Public and health safety took priority so we have to go back to the drawing board,” Fernandez said.
“Right now, we’ll play by ear by this point. We have to know which dates ang ibigay ng Vietnam.”
The SEAG was supposed to take place on Nov. 21 to Dec. 2.
Meantime, EJ Obiena and Kiyomi Watanabe were selected as the country’s flag bearers during the opening of the Tokyo Olympics on July 23.
Tolentino reiterated all 19 Filipino athletes are qualified and deserving to carry the flag to the opening ceremonies, but the selection was logically based on the flight, competition schedule and availability of athletes.
Obiena is scheduled to compete on July 31 while Watanabe’s match starts on July 27.
Tolentino also said only six technical officials are allowed to take part in the parade during the ceremonies along with the two flag-bearers in adherence to the safety and health protocols.
The officials who will take part in the opening are chief of mission Nonong Araneta, judo chief Dave Carter, swimming president Lani Velasco, gymnastics chief Cynthia Carrion, skateboarding’s Daniel Bautista and boxing coach Nolito Velasco.
Obiena was the first Filipino to qualify to the Games after hitting the Olympic standard at an Italian meet in 2019.
A 2018 Asian Games silver medalist, Watanabe, meanwhile, secured a berth through Continental Quota in the women’s middleweight (63kgs) division.