Halftime Thoughts: What standards are demanded for international hosts?

After the 2023 SEA Games, talks went past medal counts, underlining Cambodia’s lack of organization, like subpar facilities and game changes, stirring doubts about their integrity.

It seems as if every young athlete’s dream is to make it to the highest levels of their sport and showcase their talents against the very best. Sporting events become spectacles not only for athletes, but also for the supporters who flock to see the cream of the crop duke it out. These events serve as battlefields where sportsmen bring their very best to attain coveted gold.

After the conclusion of the 2023 edition of the Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, the post-game conversations were not just about the medals brought by the representatives of each country, but also  the controversially and heavily criticized organization of the host country Cambodia. From substandard practice facilities to issues regarding eligibility and event changes, the latest iteration of the biennial games has brought up questions about the integrity and intention of the game organizers.

The 2023 SEA Games sparked talks on Cambodia’s credibility due to inadequate amenities, disputed eligibility, and event changes.

International clamor

Much talk about the quality of the SEA Games hosting arose from the issues surrounding Gilas Pilipinas—the Philippines’ Men’s National Basketball team—and the crazy circumstances they had to compete in. From having to play in substandard basketball courts with poor ventilation to reportedly being provided an outdoor court with poor flooring as a practice facility, the reports on the conditions the athletes had to play in became more and more absurd. This even resulted in one Filipino player suffering an opening-day injury that prevented him from playing in the rest of the tournament, much to the disdain of the team Head Coach Chot Reyes.

Aside from the questionable decisions on the venue, many issues about eligibility and inclusion criteria in other sports were raised, causing several countries to drop out of particular events. This is not the first time host countries have been put under the controversial limelight due to overlooking factors and conditions within their control.

Keeping things in check

It is a known fact that host countries are given space to organize and tweak the conditions of the games they host. But with Cambodia somehow bending over backwards to gain an unfair advantage, it’s finally time to cut some autonomy from the hosts and provide a carefully deliberated framework of what the games are supposed to look like and how they are supposedto go.

However, in situations like these, the fault is not exclusive to the country already awarded the task of hosting. Corruption has long been rampant in sports and that is especially true when it comes to hosting—even in some of the planet’s biggest sporting meets including the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup. This is evident in last year’s 2022 FIFA Men’s Football World Cup, where the hosts Qatar were provided hosting rights under malicious circumstances. Qatar, a country not known for football, suddenly got the opportunity to play caretaker to football’s biggest event despite never qualifying for the internationally-renowned event in its history.

Hosting comes with privileges with some that must remain intact, otherwise hosting wouldn’t be much of a prize anymore, but upholding a strict set of rules to prevent unfair advantages from being built is a must if the integrity of sport is to remain.

Putting the athletes first

Meddling in the affairs of international games has a similar sensitivity to the complicated affairs of world politics. To move forward with fair and well-intentioned events, cooperation must first be achieved. When tempers flare and egos dominate, solutions won’t be reached, common ground and a respectable stance with authority is important in setting the standard.

Central to all sporting events is the competitor, people putting their life’s work into getting better day in and day out to gain glory not only for themselves but the flags they represent. Moving forward, the associations that represent them must also represent what is best for the athlete. Making it more about the person rather than the glory is paramount in making sure sports stick to what it stands for.

The institutional framework of sports must work for the athletes rather than for themselves. While profits are needed to keep the sport alive, recognizing talent and effort go hand in hand in making sure sporting events are played at the highest possible level. Olympic committees, national athletic councils and the highest levels per individual sport must stack together to ensure guidelines are established and standards are met.

Joaquin Constantino

By Joaquin Constantino

Leave a Reply