With the Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) kicking-off on Saturday, all eyes are now on the host country, the Philippines. But things are not off to a good start. News of overpriced cauldrons, transportation woes, and unfinished venues are now drawing comparisons to the controversial Fyre Festival, and the Duterte government is now drowning in complaints.
"Fyre festival: no other event in the world can top the shit show i caused
"SEA games 2019: hold my beer," Twitter user @gerardendaya said.
@PANGINOON compared it to another controversial event at the same time. "This SEA Games fiasco looks like fyre festival and 2016 Rio Olympic's love child," the account said.
"Calling the Sea Games=Fyre Festival … It's so true it's not even funny," @CamshuVelicaria tweeted.
"The worst part about all this SEA Games craziness is that it'll blow over after the games are done and the corrupt trash will get away with all their incompetence and thievery. A fucking Fyre Festival success story," @job_ochoa said.
The Overpriced Cauldron
Setting off alarm bells last week was the reveal of the SEA Games cauldron to be used during the opening ceremony. The 50-meter high structure cost taxpayers a whopping $1 million. Obviously, many were against spending that much for one thing. It’s not particularly striking either, which is why it received backlash online.
It is a very visual representation that the government’s priorities weren’t in-check during the planning, and a sign of other fails to come.
Venues Still Under Construction
Some argued that the money used on the cauldron should have just been used to finish the construction of venues in time. With the Games just days away, the Philsports Arena in Pasig City, where the volleyball tournaments are set to take place, is still far from finished.
As of Saturday, the venue still had steel scaffolding and some rooms were still undergoing renovations. It’s not the only place looking bare.
The skate and BMX Cycling venue in Tagaytay looks like it just turned up on a patch of dry land. It’s not rain-proof yet, and looks nothing like a proper venue to hold extreme sports.
Inconveniences for Football Teams
The Timor-Leste football team had to wait for hours on Saturday, before they were picked up from the airport due to a miscommunication with their transportation service. They were eventually driven to a hotel, only to find out that they were brought to the wrong one.
The Thai football team, on the other hand, endured hours sitting in traffic on Saturday, just to get to their hotel. They later learned that their practice field was also hours away from their accommodations. This led to their coach delaying the team’s practice. Instead, he just made players stretch around the hotel area.
The hotel was also unable to immediately give the Cambodian football team rooms, despite being informed that they would arrive earlier. Instead, the team was brought to a conference room, where they waited and ended up lying down on the floor.
The Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee was forced to apologize for the trouble these teams had to go through, saying things were already handled and that they acknowledge their shortcomings and “vow to do better.”
Street Food for Meals
It wasn’t just international teams that were neglected, but also the country’s very own women's football team. Their coach Let Dimzon claimed that they were only fed rice, egg, and kikiam, a street food snack.
"The quality and quantity of food is not enough," Dimzon said.
However, the hotel where they stayed at has since released a statement, saying that it served chicken sausage and not kikiam. It also said that the meat was part of a buffet that included an "omelette station, other assorted sausages, fruits, fresh fruit juices, bread, and rice."
In August last year, the government released the logo design for the SEA Games, which was immediately bashed by netizens and professional graphic artists alike. The logo consists of 11 circles in different colors, made to represent the competing countries.
Many thought it looked amateur, and that more work should have gone into designing a logo for an international event. Critics said that this was a missed opportunity to showcase Filipinos’ talent. Some artists even went as far as suggesting reimagined logos, offering their services for free.
It wasn’t just the logo that suffered from lazy branding. The official event mascot, that was compared to “something a 10th grader would submit as homework,” did too.
Delayed Budget Distribution
Months before the event, Filipino athletes already complained about being unable to train properly due to a lack of funding from the government. Not only were their budgets cut, they were also distributed late, leaving teams for sports like skating, esports, and martial arts, to scramble and find other resources.
A 100 Million Dollar Budget
With all these incidents, it’s hard to believe that the Philippines had a PHP6 billion ($118 million) budget for the event.
Downplaying the Situation
Even with local and foreign teams complaining, no one from the government has really taken responsibility for the mishaps. Many continue to downplay the situation.
In a press briefing yesterday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the event organizers just lacked creativity in addressing problems.
“The snags were not that serious anyway,” he said.
The SEA Games will run from Saturday, November 30 to Wednesday, December 11.
Update 11/28/19: This story has been updated to reflect the hotel's reply regarding the food that was served.