Manila—This year’s SEA Games, hosted by the Philippines, has certainly had its share of drama—from athletes getting stuck in traffic (true), and having to sleep on the floor while waiting for their rooms to be ready (also true) to stories of Muslim athletes being served non-halal food (not true) and the Philippine flag being used as a tablecloth at one function (also not true).
At the opening ceremony on November 30, some Filipinos were unhappy that the lighting of the flame by superstar boxer and Senator Manny Pacquiao’s was pre-recorded despite the justification by the organisers that this was due to unpredictable weather.
And then came tropical cyclone Kammuri, which caused events to be rescheduled or cancelled.
However, one of the most interesting bits of news coming from this year’s SEA Games is a comment from Datuk Mumtaz Jaafar, former star runner and the deputy president of the Malaysian Athletics Federation.
On December 1, The New Straits Times (NST) reported that Ms Mumtaz was concerned about the food being served to Malaysian athletes. Not that it isn’t good, or that it isn’t enough, but that it is really good and that there’s too much of it, and she is therefore concerned that the athletes would overeat and not be able to perform at their peak.
In what is perhaps a testament to much-vaunted Filipino hospitality, the number of meals that athletes are being served is six. Yes, you read it right. Six.
Ms Mumtaz said, “We arrived three days before athletics start and, after looking at the mess hall, I’m worried that some of my athletes might over-indulge and put on extra weight.
The food is delicious, even better than those (sic) served at some hotels… and it’s open 23 hours every day.
With the athletics venue across the road from the Village, I’m afraid they might have too much time in their hands and the mess hall might become the focal point.”
Breakfast starts being served at 5 o’clock in the morning. And the last call for supper is at 4 o’clock the following day. And within the day, there are four other times that athletes can eat.
These reportedly amazing and seemingly never-ending meals are served at the New Clark City Athletics Stadium in Capas, Tarlac, which been certified as “Class 1” by the International Association of Athletics Federation.
SEA Games participants are billeted at the Athletes’ Village.
News that the food was extremely good and plentiful is sure to have been music to the ears of the organisers of this year’s SEA Games, which went off to a rocky start in the lead-up to the opening ceremony, with complaints about expenses, food, accommodation, event venues and other things abounding on social media.
But things seem to have settled down and events have been running smoothly. As for the medal tally, as of December 3, the host country is in the lead with a total of 80 medals, with Vietnam and Indonesia in second and third places with 60 and 38 medals respectively. Singapore was ranked six, with a 23-medal total.
The SEA Games will run until December 11. -/TISG