The 28th SEA Games went into the history books late yesterday night after a blazing fortnight ended with a spectacular closing ceremony, which turned a full house at the National Stadium into a digital wonderland.
Returning as hosts after a gap of 22 years, Singapore showcased the Games as “Celebrating the Extraordinary” to inspire the nation to mark the milestone of its 50th year of statehood.
The Games torch has been passed on to neighbouring Malaysia the hosts of the next edition in 2017.
Matching its organisational excellence was Singapore’s unprecedented competition success.
The 747-strong Team Singapore smashed all previous records with a haul of 259 medals made up of 84 gold, 73 silver and 102 bronze to move to second in the standings behind regional giants Thailand, who ended up with 95-83-69.
Singapore’s previous best performance was in 1993 as hosts for the second time, with 50 gold, 40 silver and 74 bronze medals.
Cambodia finished eighth in the standings with 15 medals, a lone sepaktakraw gold adding to five silver medals with the rest bronze.
The absence of wrestling and vovinam, two disciplines that netted six medals in the 2013 Myanmar edition, was a huge blow to the Kingdom’s medal aspirations. In addition, the Kingdom’s taekwondo hopefuls, Asian Games gold winner Sorn Seavmey and her elder sister Sorn Davin, winner of a silver medal in Myanmar, were both non-starters since they could not fit into the given weight categories.
Yet Cambodia can take tiny comfort in the fact that, for the first time ever, the country managed to finish above Laos, which meant moving up a notch in the standings.
“We could only manage four medals from the Olympic disciplines: a silver from boxing and three bronze medals, two from taekwondo and one from tennis. We certainly would like to see more in the future,” Cambodia’s chef de mission and secretary-general of the National Olympic Committee Vath Chamroeun told the Post yesterday.
“There were some encouraging performances on which we can certainly build. Our preparation time was considerably reduced because of the Games being held in June instead of the traditional late-year start,” he noted.
Singapore Asiad unlikely
Despite the success of the Games, a Singapore bid to host the Asian Games appeared unlikely yesterday.
Senior sports officials gave a thumbs-down to an Asiad in Singapore, signalling that hosting Asia’s version of the Olympics was not in the city-state’s sights.
While Singapore could celebrate amassing its record gold medal haul at the SEA Games, similar success would be unlikely at the bigger, pan-Asian version.
And the costs of organising an Asian Games are prohibitive, as seen last year when Hanoi pulled out of hosting the 2018 edition.
“Personally, I do not see how Asian Games will contribute very significantly despite the amount of cost and the organisation that are needed,” Team Singapore chef de mission Tan Eng Liang said yesterday.
Singapore already has much of the infrastructure for major sports events after the completion of its $1-billion Sports Hub last year.
But Bob Gambardella, head of the Singapore Sports Institute, said Singapore’s strategy was to host single, high-level events rather than multisport showpieces.
But Singapore did promise not to follow Myanmar, who won 86 gold medals when they hosted the last SEA Games in 2013, but slumped to just 12 in Singapore. “I guarantee we won’t do a Myanmar,” said Tan, looking ahead to the next edition in Malaysia in 2017.
Additional reporting by aFP