Athletes compete in the men's 100m event at the National Athletics Championship in 2021. Việt Nam has been top in athletics in ASEAN at the last two SEA Games. Photo of Triệu Linh
The preparation is all but done. Việt Nam is ready for a safe and successful Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games 31) and expects to join hands to build a stronger Southeast Asia through this iconic sporting event.
The Games are returning to Việt Nam after 19 years and will be organised in Hà Nội and 11 surrounding cities and provinces from May 12 to 23.
The biennial sports meet was initially planned for 2021 but was delayed until this year because of the pandemic. However, with strong support from the Vietnamese Government, sponsors, local people and international friends, the festival is back on track.
Fairest SEA Games
“When building the SEA Games 31 project, we decided that it would be an impressive showpiece in professional technique. We wanted it to be a Games of justice and fair play," Deputy head of Organising Committee Trần Đức Phấn told Việt Nam News.
“In this SEA Games, all Olympic sports events are put into the competition list. We have not cut other countries’ strong points to prevent them from winning. This will be a fair Games, so there will be no big gold medal gaps between the top three delegations like there have been previously.
Gymnast Lê Thanh Tùng is seen in practice at the National Sports Training Centre 1 in Hà Nội. Gymnastics is one of the Olympic sports organised at the SEA Games 21 this May. Photo of Lê Thanh Tùng
“Traditionally, the host country often took the lead with dozen golds more than the second-placed country. However, this year Olympics and Asian Games sports are the main part of the competition list. There is almost no place for local sports. The hosts will have to fight as hard as other teams to earn golds against powerhouses, especially Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia."
The SEA Games 31 is a fair tournament as many Olympic sports are organised instead of local or regional sports. — VNA/VNS Photo
A fair-play tournament was also ordered by Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính, who recently paid a visit to the Hà Nội’s National Sports Training Centre.
Chính said officials and athletes should not create pressure on themselves. They should perform to the best of their abilities. Referees are also fully aware that they must be the fairest, most impartial, and most objective in officiating matches to evaluate the results properly.
Beyond just being a safe and sound event, the Games plan to be an impressive festival where Việt Nam can show its people’s friendship, hospitality and cultural identity to the world.
Việt Nam is ready
A week before the opening ceremony, every preparation has been made for the Games.
Hà Nội and Quảng Ninh are the two localities hosting the most sports among 12 host cities and provinces.
“Hà Nội is ready for the Games,” said Đỗ Đình Hồng, director of the Hà Nội Culture and Sports Department.
“We have made every possible preparation for training and competition venues. We have plans for security and participants’ safety, health and COVID prevention and control. Other sectors such as public service, transport, and volunteer activities are well managed.
“The Games’ regulations, competition schedule, guidebooks for supporters and media are all published. We have arranged good accommodation for thousands of athletes, coaches, referees, officials and reporters during the Games. Environment services workers have also worked hard to ensure a beautiful, green, and clean Hà Nội with many SEA Games posters and banners to welcome visitors.”
The capital city, which organised 28 sports, has paid attention to promoting and spreading information and news of the Games widely to locals, domestic tourists, and international friends.
Thousands of artists and students work hard for the best performance in the SEA Games 31's opening ceremony on May 12. Photo toquoc.vn
Apart from sports, Hà Nội will also take charge of two key events, the opening and closing ceremonies, which director Hồng said would be a highlight of the Games.
“The 120-minute opening ceremony will feature a beautiful story about Việt Nam’s people, culture and traditions. Almost 3,000 artists, students and athletes will perform at the events and spread the message of the SEA Games 31, 'For a Stronger Southeast Asia,'" Hồng said.
“Our performers are working hard to ensure the best dances and songs will be supported by virtual reality technology, 3D graphics and projected images in a three-dimensional virtual space.”
About 20,000 guests will be invited to the opening ceremony at the Mỹ Đình Stadium.
Meanwhile, in Quảng Ninh, which hosts seven sports for nearly 1,000 athletes, several buildings have been newly built and upgraded to meet international standards, such as the Cẩm Phả Stadium and the 5,000-seat Đại Yên Gymnasium.
The province has also set up subcommittees to take charge of logistics, protocol, security, healthcare and plans to respond to any COVID-related issues.
Many activities will be organised to welcome the Games participants, such as exhibitions introducing OCOP-labeled products and handicrafts. Art performances and a food festival will be held during the competition.
SEA Games participants are being offered free tours to Quảng Ninh tourist attractions and destinations such as Hạ Long Bay and Yên Tử historical and religious site.
Meanwhile, supporters can watch competitions for free.
Quảng Ninh brings a new tourism product, 'Night Streets -- Pleasure Boat', to SEA Games participants and tourists during their time in the province. — VNA/VNS Photo
“All venues will be wide open for local and international fans. We will arrange more seats if needed. We have built plans to ensure audience safety amid COVID,” said Nguyễn Thanh Tùng, deputy director of Quảng Ninh Province’s Culture and Sports Department.
Bắc Giang Province will host the badminton event, and the provincial organising committee completed its preparation weeks ago.
The Chairman of Bắc Giang People’s Committee, Lê Ánh Dương, asked all related units to regularly check their assigned duties such as competition facilities, accommodation, public security plans, transport and fire prevention.
He said the Games would showcase a badminton festival in the province.
All locals, especially members of badminton clubs, are invited and encouraged to cheer athletes during the week-long event.
Leaders of all host cities and provinces have decided on competition venues, except for the Group A football matches in Phú Thọ and the men’s semi-finals and final in Hà Nội that organisers will sell tickets for.
Authorities believe that the Games are an excellent opportunity to promote sports and lift the local tourism sector.
Welcome to Việt Nam
Organisers have also completed their logistics and will provide participants with the best accommodation and a good time during the Games.
“We have no athletes village, but athletes, coaches, referees and officials will be arranged to stay in five-star hotels and resorts, which are close to their competition venues in all host cities and provinces,” VSA Deputy Chairwoman Lê Thị Hoàng Yến told Việt Nam News.
“We also have plans for transport, logistic and public services, reception and healthcare and anti-doping, among other activities to ensure athletes' comfort and convenience to help them reach their peak at the Games,” said Yến, deputy head of the Information and Communications Subcommittee.
Hanoi Daewoo Hotel is one of the hotels selected to serve SEA Games participants. The hotel managers have worked hard and are now ready to welcome special guests.
"Hanoi Daewoo Hotel already vaccinated all of our associates and leaders. We have focused on training our staff to follow the 5K rules, especially in an important event like SEA Games when our hotel will be operating at high occupancy," Sunny Ghaiee, executive assistant manager, told Việt Nam News.
"We have been disinfecting all our rooms, so once they come to an athlete, they will have been thoroughly sanitised and not been used for a long time. Understanding their demand for privacy and comfort, we keep the accommodation & dining areas for the athletes and regular guests separate.
"Last but not least, we have prepared a medical room for the organisation board. If anyone does not feel good, they can immediately reach out to get help."
SEA Games guests staying at Daewoo Hotel have different cultures and religions. And they will be served with five-star service.
"Muslim athletes have strict requirements about halal foods. A menu with Halal certified foods has been prepared to serve Muslim athletes. We will also see that athletes' particular nutrition requirements are different from the others. That is why our chefs have already prepared special menus with high protein, fresh fruit, and juices available," Ghaiee said.
The chefs of Hanoi Daewoo Hotel are ready to meet any requirements of SEA Games participants during their stay. — Photo of Hanoi Daewoo Hotel
Dolce Hanoi Golden Lake is also among the SEA Games hotels.
Besides staff training, hotel managers also prepare the facilities with instruction signs and notices for guests. There is an area set up as a prayer room for Muslim athletes.
“At this point, we have made all preparations to welcome guests. We have taken care of the guest rooms, in-room equipment and furniture and the hotel’s facilities. We also have built different menus for different delegations,” said Nguyễn Anh Tuấn, deputy general director of Hòa Bình Co Ltd, which runs the hotel.
Apart from 14 official hotels with more than 3,000 rooms for SEA Games participants, guests and media representatives, Hà Nội’s other hotels and accommodation facilities are also busy preparing. Tens of thousands of international tourists are expected to visit and cheer the Games.
The Hà Nội Tourism Department has held many training courses for accommodation managers and residents involved in community tourism. New tourism products, including new tours to visit the city’s famous sites and discover typical local cuisine, have been set up for SEA Games guests and supporters.
“In addition to traditional products that are available at the high-end hotels, other accommodation is ready to serve other guests with high-quality service at reasonable prices,” said Trần Trung Hiếu, deputy director of the Hà Nội Tourism Department.
One of the significant concerns of the Organising Committee is COVID-19 prevention and control.
“Almost 10,000 people will join the Games. So COVID is a big challenge for organisers,” said VSA deputy chairwoman Yến.
“However, we have created solutions to ensure safety for all. All delegations’ members must have two vaccine shots before entering Việt Nam. They will be tested when arriving at hotels and before participating in the competition. Anyone testing positive will be quarantined and receive good care.
“We also have strict regulations for delegations while at the hotels, in commute or during competition. They will follow a closed routine and bubble concept and have limited direct contact with each other even when celebrating or winning.”
Yến added that competition venues are open free for supporters but based on the COVID-19 situation, venues will vary from being empty to full.
The security of the Games has also been given full attention. The Hà Nội Police is ready to maintain security and social order during the event.
The police force will maintain security and public order before, during and after the Games. VNA/VNS Photo
According to Nguyễn Hải Trung, director of the Hà Nội Police, forces and vehicles have been mobilised to ensure absolute security and safety for the Games.
Specialised police groups will be deployed at tournament events to proactively prevent and combat crime. The city police will coordinate with agencies to ensure security for the opening and closing ceremonies and carry out traffic control measures at the venues.
Time to shine
Challenges and difficulties will not prevent athletes and coaches from improving their abilities. Everything is set for athletes to perform at their peak on the regional stage.
"All athletes are in good condition in terms of spirit and fitness. We have overcome all obstacles to prepare for the big battles,” Yến said.
Việt Nam, as host for the second time, will send a 1,341-strong delegation to the Games. They will compete in all 40 sports and aim to take 140 gold medals to top the medal table.
“We have been in the top three in several recent Games. This year, we play on home turf with a record number of athletes participating in all sports. These two reasons make us believe we can win more golds,” Yến said.
“Việt Nam’s athletics, swimming, weightlifting, martial arts and wrestling are strong. Our athletes also have dominated other sports such as shooting, cycling, diving and fencing.
Tống Thanh Tuyền of the cycling team trains intending to win a medal in the SEA Games 31. — VNA/VNS Photo
“We are also reigning champions of the men’s and women’s football and will defend our titles while other sports such as futsal, basketball, and volleyball target top positions. In the upcoming Games, they will compete for their fame and the nation’s pride."
The Games will also lift the image of Việt Nam’s beautiful country and friendly people throughout the region and the world.
Track-and-field athletes in training in Hà Nội. Athletics is the strongest team of Việt Nam in the SEA Games, taking responsibility for winning up to 17 golds. — VNA/VNS Photo
Athletics is a key sport of Việt Nam, winning 16 golds at the previous Games. This month, the team are shouldering the heaviest burden, aiming for 15-17 golds.
"Our athletes are in good condition. We have prepared and trained right since the 2019 Games,” said coach Nguyễn Mạnh Hiếu.
“Our golden hopes are both veteran and young athletes. We have made assignments for individual members of the team. We hope to grab the best result and complete our mission.”
Meanwhile, shooting coach Hoàng Xuân Vinh said the SEA Games 31 in Việt Nam was a special meet, gathering a high-quality team, including senior and junior athletes, who will grab medals and shine over the 12-day Games.
Athletes and coaches took part in a special sending-off ceremony on April 28, marking their readiness for the region's largest sporting showpiece.
“Whenever the sending-off ceremony is organised, the Games are very close,” fencer Vũ Thành An said.
The ASEAN No 1 sabre fencing athlete said he was excited to compete at the Games, and the ceremony was a strong push for him to defend his two titles later this month.
Meanwhile, gymnast Lê Thanh Tùng is full of energy with a good spirit and strong determination. He cannot wait to perform after months of practising.
Đỗ Thị Ánh Nguyệt is Việt Nam's golden hope in archery at the coming SEA Games. — VNA/VNS Photo
Olympic archer Đỗ Thị Ánh Nguyệt is looking forward to the strong support of local fans, which she said would help athletes to compete more strongly and competitively.
"I hope to reach my best at the SEA Games and will bring home gold medals," she said.
If the detailed organisation and the spirit of the athletes are anything to go by, SEA Games 31 looks to be one of the most exciting regional sporting events in recent history, with everything to play for.— VNS