KUALA LUMPUR – It has taken years of meticulous planning but the 2017 Southeast Asian Games was forced to make a last-minute change to its schedule after organisers discovered its closing ceremony clashed with an important annual religious holiday.
Just months before the start of the biennial event in August, authorities announced the closing ceremony in Muslim-majority Malaysia will be a day earlier than scheduled, due to the clash with Islamic festival Hari Raya Haji.
The celebration will now be held on August 30, instead of Aug 31 which is the eve of the key holiday for Muslims, Youth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin said.
Khairy told reporters on Tuesday that the change of date would not be an issue for the games which begin on Aug 19.
“The closing date of the SEA Games has been brought forward by one day, from Aug 31 to Aug 30. This is for us to celebrate a (Muslim) religious event … which falls on August 31,” the minister said.
“But this will not create any big problems to the competition in terms of venue or accommodation because we had created a buffer period from the start of the competition.”
Khairy added there will be some changes made to the schedule of a few sports events but that “by Aug 30th we would have finished all the events”.
The previous SEA Games unfolded in Singapore, which produced a slickly-organised event based around their newly-built, billion-dollar Sports Hub complex.
However, there were several controversies at the Games including arrests for alleged football match-fixing, and the Philippines’ request for a gender test on an Indonesian women’s volleyball player.
Suspected food poisoning laid low several cyclists, and Malaysians rallied round a top gymnast after critics slammed her for competing in revealing clothing.
Filipinos John Elmerson Fabriga and John David Pahoyo became inadvertent hits when footage of their consecutive, zero-point botched dives went viral on the Internet. — AFP