Your primer for the 2017 Southeast Asian Games

August 12, 2017

by: JC Ansis



The 29th Southeast Asian Games is just several days away. This year’s edition of the competition will be held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia from August 19 to 30.

Close to 5,000 athletes are expected to participate in 404 events throughout 39 sports.

Malaysia will host the SEA Games for the sixth time after hosting it previously in 1965, 1971, 1977, 1989 and 2001. The main venue of the competition will be the Bukit Jalil National Stadium, which can seat a capacity of 87,411 people.

But what is the SEA Games and how did it come about? When did the Philippines join and how well have we fared in the competitions?

All of those questions will be answered in this primer we’ve prepared for you.


What is the SEA Games?

The Southeast Asian Games was first established in 1959, but was then called the Southeast Asia Peninsular (SEAP) Games.

Currently, the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games Federation has 11 member national Olympic committees (NOC), namely the Philippines, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Timor Leste, Singapore and Vietnam.

The first edition of the SEAP Games, which was held in December 1959 in Bangkok, Thailand, featured six nations at the time: Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, Malaysia, Thailand and Burma (now known as Myanmar).

The six countries competed in 145 events covering 12 sports: athletics, badminton, basketball, boxing, cycling, football, lawn tennis, swimming, shooting, table tennis, volleyball and weightlifting. Thailand was the country which won the inaugural SEAP Games.


Hosting the SEA Games

The hosting of the Southeast Asian Games is rotated by alphabetical order of the SEA Games Federation (SEAGF) member countries. Each country which is assigned a year to host has the option to actually host the event or not. If any host is not ready or incapable of hosting the SEA Games, the event is passed on to the next NOC.

One rule of the SEA Games states that the President and Secretary General of the SEA Games Federation should come from the host NOC.

Since 1959, the SEA Games has been held in 15 different cities across all Southeast Asian countries, except for Cambodia and Timor Leste.

The Philippines has hosted the SEA Games three times in the past: 1981, 1991, and 2005. In those years, the country ranked third, second, and first overall, respectively.


Sports and events

In the 29th Southeast Asian Games, athletes will be competing throughout a total of 39 sports and 404 events.

The most number of sports and events in the SEA Games was at the 26th edition, which took place in Palembang and Jakarta. The 2011 SEA Games held 43 sports and 554 events. Meanwhile, the smallest SEA Games in recent years was the 20th SEA Games held in Brunei Darussalam in 1999, with 21 sports and 290 events.

A host country is allowed to include certain events, and can even incorporate those that are indigenous to it. In 1991, the Philippines added arnis as a demonstration sport, and won 14 medals (10 golds, 3 silvers, 1 bronze) from those events. Arnis was incorporated in the SEA Games an official sport in 2005, but has never been played since then.


New sports for 2017 SEA Games

Athletes from the 11 participating nations will figure in 38 sports. But apart from the traditional sports we usually see at the SEA Games, this year’s competition will include several new sports.

For the first time in the SEA Games’ existence, winter sports — such as ice hockey, figure skating and short track speed skating — will now be contested. Including these winter sports, which are full-fledged events, could help pave the way for Southeast Asian countries to participate in future competition like the Winter Olympics.

Another sport that will be included in the SEA Games for the first time is cricket, which is the lone sport the Philippines won’t compete in.


PH in the SEA Games

It was in 1977 when the Philippines first sent athletes to the Southeast Asian Games.

As previously mentioned, the country has hosted the SEA Games thrice: in 1981, 1991, and 2005.

The country’s best ranking in the SEA Games came in 2005. The Philippines finished ahead of Thailand and Vietnam after winning 113 golds, 84 silvers and 94 bronzes. In years the country didn’t host the SEA Games, the Philippines performed best in 1983 — finishing second overall with 150 medals (49 golds, 48 silvers and 53 bronzes).

After winning 113 gold medals in 2005, the Philippines’ gold-medal haul has decreased in the following years. The country won 41 golds in 2007, 38 in 2009, 36 in 2011, 29 in 2013, and 29 in the 2015 SEA Games.

The Filipino athletes are seeking to finish better than the country’s sixth place ranking in Singapore in 2015. Philippine SEA Games chef de mission Cynthia Carrion-Norton said she expects the country to take home at least 50 gold medals.

In this year’s SEA Games, the Philippines will send around 500 athletes who will compete in 37 sports. Filipina taekwondo bet Kirstie Alora will the country’s flag bearer in the opening ceremony of the 29th SEA Games.


Notable PH athletes/teams in SEA Games

The Philippines has remained a powerhouse in the region as far as basketball is concerned. The country has won the men’s basketball tournament 17 times in 18 appearances and is heavily favored to win the event again this year.

Former track and field star Elma Muros was the youngest Filipino athlete to participate in the SEA Games at the age of 14 years old in 1981. She also remains one of the most medalled Filipino athletes in the SEA Games with 15 gold medals.

Only three Filipinos, all of which were swimmers, have been named SEA Games Most Valuable Player. Eric Buhain and Miguel Molina won best male athletes in 1991 and 2007, respectively, while Akiko Thomson was named best female athlete in 1989.

Lydia De Vega also became a household name because of her many accomplishments in the SEA Games. De Vega won gold medals in the 200 and 400-meter events in 1981, while also winning the 100-meter event in 1987, 1991 and 1993.

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