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SEA Games volunteers (Photo: TODAY)

Kudos to athletes & volunteers, but management can do better

SEA Games volunteers (Photo: TODAY)
SEA Games volunteers (Photo: TODAY)

Not the first time that ticket confusion has led to unhappiness at the 28th SEA Games

“The 28th Southeast Asian Games closed in spectacular fashion at Singapore's new National Stadium on Tuesday, bringing down the curtain on nearly two weeks of non-stop sporting action at the region's biggest multi-sports event,” the SEA Games’ Facebook page posted on Tuesday night.

Indeed, as far as the achievements of our sportsmen and sportswomen are concerned, the 28th SEA Games was a stunning success.

Our athletes have broken numerous records, including long-standing ones, and have hauled in a record number of medals as well, to help the country end the Games in second place on the medals’ table.

And even those who didn’t win, the determination in their spirits was evident for all to see.

Singapore and Singaporeans, truly, should be proud of all their sporting heroes.

A word too must be said for all the volunteers who gave of their time to help in the running of the 11-day Games.

They have been tireless and indeed indomitable even when faced with crowds of people, some of whom may have been abusive for various reasons.

When this writer attended the Badminton semi-finals matches on Monday, the experience with the volunteers can only be described as uplifting.

The volunteers were always smiling and helpful, giving you high-fives, and providing you with directions amidst the thousands who thronged the venue at the Sports Hub.

Some would also make small talk with ticket-holders as they queued for their turn to get into the Indoor Stadium.

And when tens of thousands of football fans poured out of the Stadium MRT station onto the Sports Hub for the soccer final between Thailand and Myanmar, the volunteers – in their striking purple shirt and beige shorts – were on hand to direct them to the National Stadium, and again doing so with smiles on their faces.

In brief, the volunteers gave the Games a personal touch, even when you could clearly see that they were tired and had obviously been at it for hours.

So, it is with some regret and sadness that reports have emerged that some of the volunteers were abused on the last day of the Games, Tuesday, during the Closing Ceremony.

Mismanagement of tickets issuance had led to scores of people being unable to get into the National Stadium to witness the closing ceremony. (See TOC’s report on the incident here: “Chaos at Sports Hub: Thousands with tickets left stranded outside for Closing Ceremony”.)

Here was one typical comment, of numerous ones, posted on the SEA Games Facebook page following the debacle:

kenlee

As feelings flared and frustration turned into anger among the ticket-holders who could not get into the stadium, some started to verbally abuse the volunteers.

According to a Channel Newsasia report, one volunteer said that some of them “were being scolded by frustrated ticket holders ‘until they cried’.”

"At one point, I saw a bottle being thrown," the volunteer said.

Many of these volunteers are young students who are probably assisting in such a huge event for the very first time. And in fact, they would not have any control over what transpired on Tuesday night, when chaos and confusion reigned over the mismanagement of tickets.

SINGSOC later posted an apology for the incident:

"The organising committee apologises for the inconvenience caused and disappointment of those affected,” it said on its Facebook page. “We will offer a full refund to anyone who had purchased a ticket and was unable to be seated. In addition, you will receive the supporters’ medallion.”

While it is good that an apology has been issued, providing a full refund and a supporters’ medallion is little comfort to those who had been expecting to be part of something which doesn’t come around often to Singapore.

Tuesday’s confusion over ticketed seating arrangement, however, was not the first such incident.

On Friday, 12 June, fans were also upset over empty seats at some games, even though they were told all tickets had been sold out.

“Tickets to some venues at the SEA Games were said to be ‘fast selling’, sometimes ‘unavailable’ or even ‘sold out’, but come kick-off, empty seats were still spotted, earning the ire of fans who struggled to secure a ticket via the online portal and even after making their way down to ticket booths to try their luck,” The New Paper reported.

SINGSOC must remember that while the bad management of tickets affected ticket holders, it has at the same time given bad international publicity to Singapore, given the tens of thousands of different nationalities supporting their countries, and how the SEA Games is beamed across the region.

SINGSOC therefore needs to hold an inquiry into what exactly had happened in all these instances, and provide a detailed explanation to the public.

And while it is at it, SINGSOC should also look into the other incidents during the Games which had also embarrassed Singapore and Singaporeans.

Here are some of these, as reported by the media:

Host of the Opening Ceremony Sharon Au’s racial stereotype behaviour which drew flak.

The Star (Malaysia), 5 June
The Star (Malaysia), 5 June

Power outage which disrupted the Shooting competition on 6 June.

Channel Newsasia, 6 June
Channel Newsasia, 6 June

National anthem malfunctions during the medals’ ceremony for the Women 4X200m event.

The Online Citizen, 8 June
The Online Citizen, 8 June

Mix-up at the u-turn of the marathon route, resulting in the runners taking a wrong turn during the race.

The New Paper, 10 June
The New Paper, 10 June

Food poisoning which affected some cyclists

Perth Now, Sunday Times, 11 June
Perth Now, Sunday Times, 11 June

Empty seats at some events, upsetting fans

New Paper headline, 12 June
New Paper headline, 12 June

The use of artist Lee Wen’s “Ping Pong Go Round” idea without permission.

Channel Newsasia, 13 June
Channel Newsasia, 13 June

And on the closing day:

Channel Newsasia, 16 June
Channel Newsasia, 16 June

Be these as they may, still the 28th SEA Games is now a benchmark for our sportsmen and sportswomen.

Let’s hope the management will also do better at the next one, when the SEA Games returns to Singapore.

And yes, we do not forget the thousands of volunteers who were the hands and feet, the heart and soul, which made it all possible.

Let’s applaud and thank them too.

Finally, here’s looking forward to Malaysia 2017.