THE 28th SEA Games is the perfect platform for Singapore to showcase their strengths as an advanced nation.
The high-tech show during the opening ceremony was proof of that. So are the modern infrastructure and state-of-the-art venues.
They’ve even packaged all the sporting events well and made a great show of everything, from synchronised swimming to table tennis and netball.
However, it is not all rosy and perfect on the island republic.
Members of the media from the region are witnessing some failings of the host nation.
One glaring shortcoming is the lack of communication among the many volunteers who are at the SEA Games venues in their purple, yellow and white T-shirts.
It’s great that Singapore have so many volunteers, but it all comes to nought if the volunteers don’t know their role and are unable to assist the many fans and media members.
There have been many times when members of the press have sought assistance at the help desk, only to be greeted with nonchalant replies or a simple “I don’t know, I’m not in charge of this.”
Despite the high expectations of our esteemed neighbours, the sporting events are quite disorganised. At the bowling venue, there didn’t seem to be any crowd control as spectators found their way to media seats, leaving the press scrambling to find a seat so they could report the news.
It was the same at other venues, too.
The worse was yet to come.
On Wednesday, the Malaysian reporters were eager to cover the women’s final between Malaysia’s Rachel Arnold and Vanessa Raj.
However, we were told we couldn’t enter the squash hall as the match was already in progress. The volunteers said this was the “protocol”. When we tried to reason with them, they called the security officers.
At previous squash matches, the media were free to come and go, regardless of whether the match was in progress.
The standard operating procedure seems to change from day to day.
There are no perfect Games. Every host faces their own challenges. Perhaps we just expect more from a nation that is always touted as being the best in South-East Asia for various different reasons.
It has not been the most pleasant experience so far, in a sporting event meant to strengthen ties between the South-East Asian countries.
Nonetheless, there are still some nice and helpful people here. The sweet lady in charge of the media workroom at the badminton venue is one such example. She is always accommodating, helpful with information and even listens to feedback.
However, the best people I’ve met so far have been the taxi drivers. They are flexible, have good advice, always have an interesting story to tell and most of all, they always speak their mind.
One taxi driver summed it up succintly: “Singaporeans want to feel secure and make everything perfect ... although sometimes they overdo it.”
This SEA Games still has a lot more to offer and I’m optimistic that it will only get better in the remaining days.
As for Malaysia, the bar has been set very high for us as the next host.
Even if we can’t provide the best facilities, we should at least not do worse in hospitality.
The Star Online