M'sian athletes brace for logistic problems in Myanmar

Kuala Lumpur (The Star/ANN) - Myanmar will be hosting the SEA Games - for the first time in 44 years - in December.

Despite their best efforts, all participating nations to the 27th edition of the Games have been warned to brace themselves for some logistic challenges. The Games will be held in both Yangon and Naypyidaw from December 11-22.

And Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) secretary general Datuk Sieh Kok Chi said they had raised several concerns with the organisers.

The main one is the absence of direct flights to Naypyidaw.

All athletes, officials and supporters will have to fly to Yangon and stay overnight there before catching a domestic flight to the new capital, Naypyidaw.

"We have written about it to the host. We're hoping they will look into having direct flights to Naypyidaw," said Kok Chi.

"I've been there twice (for meetings). There are flights to Yangon but one must transit for almost a day before taking the domestic flight to Naypyidaw. This is not a problem for me but imagine the chaos when almost 4,000 (athletes and officials) try to make their way there from all parts of this region.

"Some will be bringing their sports equipment. The domestic flights are also limited and can carry only about 100 passengers per trip.

"One can also drive from Yangon to the new capital but it will take five hours. The roads are bumpy and unsafe. We do not want athletes to be stranded or arrive late."

Kok Chi said they were also concerned with the lack of technical experts.

He explained that Malaysia and several other SEA countries were ready to look into the shortage.

"Myanmar are doing their best to host their first Games after 40 years and we're happy to see their commitment," he said.

"So far, almost all their venues are ready while the upgrading works are going according to schedule. Our sailing team were there last week and gave a good review of the facilities.

"The Games Village also provides a comfortable living for athletes and officials. But we're not sure if they have sufficient technical officials. On behalf of OCM, Youth and Sports Ministry and NSC (National Sports Council), we have written to them of our intention to help. We can send support staff or organise training for them."

Myanmar will be hosting 33 sports offering a total of 460 gold medals, and they need certified officials to ensure that the events will go on without any hitches.

Kok Chi said that Malaysian supporters might also find a trip to Naypyidaw daunting.

"The internal transportation will be tricky as well. The public transportation is almost non-existent. Shuttle buses will be provided for athletes and officials but others will have to find ways to move around the city," he said.

"I didn't see any commercial shopping area. Due to the limited number of hotels, some may have to stay in hostels or find ways to cook their own meals. The city is like Putrajaya - most of the buildings are new and nice but probably 10 times quieter."

Kok Chi advised the sports associations to select seasoned and responsible team managers to oversee their athletes during the Games.

"A good team manager can make a difference for the team under such trying circumstances. It won't be perfect but we'll have to make the best out of it," he said.

Myanmar last hosted the SEA Games in 1968 in Yangon. Their first modern Games will also be their first major international event since the end of junta rule in 2011.

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