2023 SEA Games: Biggest Highlights and Controversies


When Luang Sukhum Nayapradit, then vice-president of the Nationwide Olympic Committee of Thailand, first pitched the thought of a Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in 1958, he envisioned it as a chance each to lift athletic requirements and enhance cooperation within the area.

However the biennial sporting occasion—which simply concluded its thirty second iteration, staged for the primary time in Cambodia this yr—has usually been overshadowed by controversy, ineptitude, and nationalistic infighting: from repeated allegations of match-fixing to infrastructural failures (that at instances have turned deadly) to a scarcity of requirements which have led to the occasion being written off as a “gold-medal mine,” for a bunch of countries which might be in any other case uncompetitive in international occasions just like the Olympics or soccer’s World Cup.

This yr was no exception. Cambodia kicked off the squabbling months earlier than the occasions started by deciding to drop muay thai, Thailand’s nationwide sport that has been a part of the SEA Video games since 2005, from the roster of occasions and change it with kun khmer, a virtually similar kickboxing competitors however of Cambodian quite than Thai origin. Thailand finally determined to boycott the occasion.

Nonetheless, during the last two weeks in Phnom Penh, there have been additionally notable moments of inspiration and achievement amidst the same old controversies. Listed below are among the highlights and lowlights from the 2023 SEA Video games.

A gap ceremony flag fake pas

The Video games began on Could 5 with a jubilant opening ceremony that featured the parading of the flags of the 11 competing Southeast Asian states in addition to the ASEAN bloc flag. It was a spectacular performance, full with conventional dancers and colourful floats. Besides, the flags of Indonesia, Vietnam, and Myanmar have been displayed the wrong way up. Incensed viewers on-line inundated the SEA Video games social media pages with complaints and politicians from the affected international locations complained, forcing an official apology from the organizers.

It’s not the primary time for such a banner blunder on the SEA Video games: the official booklet when Malaysia hosted in 2017 additionally flipped Indonesia’s flag, displaying the colours of Poland as a substitute, earlier than a corrected version was distributed as an alternative.

Cambodian last-place runner celebrated

The SEA Video games additionally had at the very least one viral heartwarming second. Cambodian runner Bou Samnang, who got here final within the ladies’s 5k occasion, turned an web sensation after she persevered to the end line by way of a downpour of rain that started as many of the subject had already accomplished the race. Vietnam’s Thi Oanh, who ranked first, completed six minutes forward of Samnang, whereas the penultimate runner was 90 seconds forward.

The 20-year-old runner pushed on, inspiring onlookers together with her teary-eyed willpower. Samnang, who has been affected by anemia and has stated she didn’t really feel effectively on the race day, told media she needed to see it by way of for her nation and the Cambodians she represents: “I couldn’t simply cease the race regardless that I had the correct to.”

Fights and flip-flops over a flipped combat consequence

In a single weight division last on Could 10 for girls’s pencak silat, an Indonesian martial artwork competitors, Indonesia’s Safira Dwi Meilani was main Vietnam’s Nguyen Hoang Hong An by 61-43 because the clock ticked down the ultimate seconds. There was no time for Hong An to stage a comeback on factors, however with 18 seconds remaining she executed a hand lock that compelled Safira to faucet out. The referee awarded Hong An the gold medal, however instantly the Indonesian crew disputed the victory, and an altercation between the 2 teaching staffs ensued, which needed to be damaged up by safety officers. The referee then reversed his resolution and awarded the gold to Safira, and Vietnam’s crew filed a grievance. The ultimate end result: a joint gold for Indonesia and Vietnam.

Singapore accused of ‘digital doping’

Indonesia’s esports supporters watch a screening within the qualification match between Philippine and Indonesia in the course of the SEA Video games on Could 10.

Kith Serey—EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

A number of esports titles have been performed as medal occasions on the 2023 SEA Video games, together with the tactical first-person shooter VALORANT, for which Singapore and Indonesia made the finals on Could 10. However midway by way of the match, the sport was abruptly paused for hours, earlier than the stream ended with out conclusion. Through the timeout, Indonesia accused Singapore of successfully ‘digital doping’: exploiting an in-game bug that allegedly gave them an illegitimate benefit. Indonesia ultimately determined to forfeit the competitors citing “unfair conditions.” However organizers determined to award each Singapore and Indonesia a joint gold medal, given the controversial ending. Workforce Singapore’s Tidus Goh, also known as STYRON, decried on Twitter that his crew had learn the principles and adopted them, and but they have been nonetheless denounced as cheaters: “What a method to remove each honor the medal carries.”

Ending in the dead of night and falling on the courts

Defective or subpar sporting infrastructure have been a recurrent theme in previous SEA Video games. In Cambodia, a video went viral displaying the finishers of 1 monitor occasion at a podium lit by what seems to be automobile headlights. The awarding of the lads’s 20-km fast-walk occasion close to the Angkor Wat on Could 6 was shrouded in darkness reportedly as a result of the daytime race had been postponed to the night because of climate. Gold winner Hendro Yap of Indonesia advised Indonesian information web site Kompas.com that some reporters needed to even shine their very own flashlights.

It wasn’t the one services difficulty this yr. Coaches from the Philippines and Singapore also complained that the linoleum tiling of the multi-purpose halls the place basketball was performed induced their athletes—accustomed to enjoying on polished wooden—to get injured, and {that a} lack of air flow induced further slippage from sweat on the ground.

Redemption for Indonesian soccer with first gold in 32 years

Following a stadium stampede that killed hundreds in October 2022 and a political fiasco simply a number of weeks in the past that led FIFA to pull the 2023 Under-20 World Cup tournament out of the country, Indonesia has lastly restored a few of its nation’s soccer delight after beating Thailand in a dramatic SEA Video games last on Could 16.

The match was heated and had its personal justifiable share of controversy—together with 4 gamers being despatched off and two brawls, certainly one of which was triggered after Indonesian gamers mistook a last-minute whistle by the referee to imply the tip of the sport, when it really marked a foul. The Indonesian bench prematurely rushed the sector to have a good time, however Thailand ended up scoring a tying purpose off the free kick to ship the match to further time. Finally, Indonesia gained 5-2, marking the nation’s first gold medal within the sport since 1991.

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