Worries For Myanmar As Southeast Asian Games Set To Begin
Empty seats and security concerns "top the list of worries as Myanmar gears up for the Southeast Asian Games, the biggest sports event ever held in the former pariah state," according to the AFP. Thousands of athletes, officials, fans and media "will converge for the Games, which are slowly getting under way" ahead of the Opening Ceremony on Dec. 11. Logistical hurdles also loom, including "an expected lack of hotel rooms to accommodate the expected 6,000 athletes and 3,000 media, plus officials and fans." While not quite on the scale of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, China’s "bold statement of arrival," the Games "mark an important moment for Myanmar’s image and prestige." Organizers "have tried to fill seats" at the brand-new venues in Naypyidaw (“Royal City of the Sun”) by "offering free tickets for all events apart from football." However, with "residents in short supply at the sprawling and far-flung capital, whose huge boulevards are often devoid of traffic, swathes of empty seats are likely." And although officials insist that "preparations are complete, worries persist over how Myanmar will accommodate all the visitors." A government official who did not want to be named said, "Hotel rooms cannot be enough because many foreigners and many visitors will come" (AFP, 12/3).