A powerful typhoon barreling in from the Pacific towards the Philippines is the latest disaster to hit the Southeast Asian Games, an international sports event which has been plagued by embarrassing construction delays and complaints about poor facilities.
Typhoon Kammuri, currently whipping up gusts of 170km/h is expected to make landfall Monday evening or early Tuesday morning, forcing the Games organisers to cancel or reschedule some events. Thousands of Filipinos have also been evacuated from low-lying or coastal areas.
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Although the typhoon – an unusual occurrence in the month of December – was unforeseeable, the authorities have already had to apologise for a chaotic start to the competition, which involves 56 sports across dozens of venues spread across the Southeast Asian nation.
Unfinished venues and poor accommodation for athletes has already led to the unfortunate comparison with the Fyre Festival, a fraudulent luxury music festival that was supposed to be held in the Bahamas in 2017 but was widely mocked for being an organisational catastrophe.
According to local media reports, competing sports teams have been subjected to long waits for transport and scarce food and drinking water supplies, while photos of Cambodia’s athletes sleeping on the floor after arriving to unprepared rooms went viral.
Thai athletes were forced to squeeze three athletes into rooms for two, while the Singapore team complained that there was not enough halal food for its team.
The first qualifying football match in the Rizal Memorial Stadium in the capital, Manila, had to proceed without a scoreboard, and only outside chemical toilets for spectators.
Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippine president, on Friday issued a personal apology to foreign athletes for “so many mishaps” and promised a thorough probe. “I’m really apologising for the country,” he said.
Meanwhile, in a separate controversy, the Indonesian youth and sports ministry has vowed to investigate a complaint made by the mother of a gymnast that her 17-year-old daughter was dropped from the team after being accused of going out with male friends and not being a virgin.
“I was shocked. I want my daughter’s name cleared,” she said. Indonesian officials have denied the claim, insisting she was dropped for disciplinary issues.