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Malaysian veteran draws roadmap for 2023 Games

Olympic Council of Malaysia secretary general Sieh Kok Chi (left) talks to his Cambodian counterpart Vath Chamroeun
Olympic Council of Malaysia secretary general Sieh Kok Chi (left) talks to his Cambodian counterpart Vath Chamroeun during a conference at the NOCC headquarters on Monday. YEUN PONLOK

Malaysian veteran draws roadmap for 2023 Games

Olympic Council of Malaysia secretary general Sieh Kok Chi has laid out a roadmap to help Cambodia prepare a master plan to host the 2023 Southeast Asian Games in the Kingdom for the first time since the inception of the biennial event in 1959.

As a special invitee to the General Assembly of the National Olympic Committee of Cambodia on Monday, Kok Chi outlined in great detail the organisational, logistical and infrastructural developments required to stage a mega-event like the SEA Games, which is the region’s biggest sporting spectacle.

In a two-part presentation, the Malaysian veteran, whose experience in the organisation and promotion of the Games spawns nearly five decades, guided the top brass of the NOCC and member federations through the challenges that they have to face in the run up to the nomination deadline.

Here are some of the salient features of Kok Chi’s roadmap as presented in the General Assembly to help Cambodia’s preparations:

Timeline
The 10-year target that Cambodia has set for itself is really commendable. It gives them plenty of time to prepare very well. Generally, host countries set a time frame of two to three years for preparations. Since time is on Cambodia’s side, tackling several major issues will be lot easier.

Beneficial impact
The SEA Games will hugely impact the host country. Out of the 11 countries representing the region, Cambodia is the only founder member not to have hosted the Games. The other one to not have hosted is the newest member in the fold – East Timor.

If you look back at the nine countries that have staged these Games, you can clearly see the beneficial side.

A striking example is Vietnam. They held their first SEA Games in 2003 and by the end of this decade they would be in line to host the Asian Games.

There are rewards for a host country in several key sectors – transportation networks, new infrastructure, human resource development – where you can build a bank of efficient managerial and technical workforce.

It augments sports sciences, brings about improved on-field performances, strengthens individual federations and overall builds a strong sports culture.

Tourism, hotel industry, construction – all these sectors will be well served by a successful organisation of the Games.

Infrastructure development
This is the most challenging issue for any host nation, especially for a country like Cambodia doing it for the first time. This is one area which is totally dependent on government funding.

Do not build too many, too big and too expensive. You need to strike a balance between what is a dire need for the big show and its post-Games utility, because costs to maintain these giant facilities will be too high. The post-Games scenario has to be clearly worked out before embarking on a major project.

Explore innovative solutions; present-day technology provides for construction of temporary venues. Address accommodation needs through hotel networks instead of building Games villages at enormous costs.

It is important to note that the NOC has to work with the government in infrastructure development as a partner. There are instances when the NOC will experience what is generally regarded as governmental meddling, but treat this as government’s responsibility rather than looking at it as interference.

This partnership between the government and the NOC is very important.

Meticulous planning is needed in the choice of venues and one way of cutting transportation costs is to find hotels for athletes in specific disciplines close to the facility they compete in.

Additional revenue
While the Games funding is basically done by the government, there are several avenues to bring in extra revenues for the host country. One key element could be to encourage the government to allow tax rebates for sports sponsorship and donations as prevalent in countries like Malaysia and Singapore. Issuing commemorative stamps and coins and even a lottery could be contemplated alongside tourism promotion initiatives.

Budget
Keeping cost escalation in mind – the Games could cost as much as US$30 million or slightly more, and that is the figure we in Malaysia are looking at for the 2017 Games.

Number of disciplines
The host country has the sole prerogative to decide on the number of disciplines and events that would be staged during that particular edition. For example, Indonesia staged a record 43 disciplines in 2011 while Brunei in its first attempt in 1999 did only 21.

So it is up to Cambodia to decide on how many disciplines and what they are. My suggestion would be around 25 disciplines.

Legacy
These Games leave a lasting legacy apart from short- and medium-term impacts. It is very important to determine what legacy will be left behind and how well the Games be remembered. Every host country wants to be the best.

People’s support
The NOC has to ensure that the people of the country support these Games. This backing is very crucial to its success.

Strengthening federations
It is not enough if the NOC is strong. It is critically important that member federations provide a solid platform and address the needs and interests of the discipline they serve.

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