Approaching storm, snafus cast pall on Southeast Asian Games

Full Screen
1 / 7

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Filipino athletes and government officials pose for a group photo beside the cauldron as they prepare for the 30th South East Asian Games at the New Clark City, Tarlac province, northern Philippines on Thursday Nov. 21, 2019. The country is hosting the SEA Games from Nov. 30-Dec. 12. (AP Photo/Aaron Favila)

CLARK – An approaching typhoon is threatening to complicate the hosting by the Philippines of the largest biennial games in Southeast Asia, already marred by logistical foul-ups that President Rodrigo Duterte vowed to investigate.

Duterte on Saturday welcomed the first few thousand athletes, coaches and sports officials from the region to the Southeast Asian Games in an opening ceremony featuring digital fireworks in a huge indoor arena in Bocaue town north of Manila. The VIPs included Brunei leader Hassanal Bolkiah, whose son is a player on the sultanate’s polo team.

A bus carrying Vietnamese athletes accidentally bumped the rear of another bus loaded with Laotian athletes on the way to the opening ceremony, causing minor injuries and shattering the glass windows of one of the buses, police said.

More than 8,000 athletes and officials were expected to fly in for the games, which started in 1959 in the Thai capital of Bangkok with just a dozen sports. In the Philippines, 56 sports will be featured in 529 events, the largest number in the 11-nation competition so far, which will be held in more than 40 venues, including in the traffic-choked capital of Manila.

About 27,000 police officers have been deployed to secure the 11-day games.

A typhoon was bearing down in the Pacific and forecasters expect it to blow into the main island of Luzon in the north early next week. The main sporting venues in Clark and Subic, former U.S. military bases turned into popular leisure and commercial hubs north and northwest of Manila, are in or near Typhoon Kammuri’s path.

Kammuri was packing sustained winds of 150 kilometers (93 miles) per hour and gusts of up to 185 kph (115 mph) as of late Friday but could still strengthen, forecasters said. The prospect of it becoming a super typhoon was unlikely but cannot be ruled out, they said.

“The contingency plan involves delay of the competition, the cancellation of competition,” Ramon Suzara, executive director of the organizing committee, said at a news conference. Indoor competitions could proceed in bad weather if power is not cut, but the entry of spectators may be restricted, he said.