By Yue Lynn

When your home country is hosting the 29th Southeast Asian Games (otherwise known as the 2017 Southeast Asian Games), you can bet your bottom dollar that the intensity, hype and crowd atmosphere would be sky high. Fortunately, it was great that Malaysia truly delivered in the aforementioned aspects, aside from clinching the title of being the country with an obnoxious amount of medals (Gold: 145; Silver: 92; Bronze: 86). With a total medal count of 323, we clearly and smugly outshined other countries in terms of quality, quantity and shininess (#medaltypepun) amidst petty allegations from salty rivals; something which understandably happens in any sports competition.

 

First-timer Experience

Badminton, Axiata Arena fullhouse, 29th Sea Games 2017, KL Sport City, 27 August 2017.Photo by Muhammad Muslimi / MASOC

Photo Credit: kualalumpur2017.com.my

To many, the recently concluded games was their ‘first time’. Their first stadium experience, their first volunteering activity, their first medal and etc.; basically, a lot of ‘firsts’. As for the writer, aka me, I went to watch sporting events live at the venue itself for the first time. As a sports fan who usually watches sports at the comfort of home sweet home on a nice couch, it was special and extremely different. And h*ll yeah I enjoyed the experience! Though I only managed to attend three events, namely, Athletics, Badminton and Diving, it was such a glorious feeling to be cheering for the same team along with the mostly-Malaysian crowd.

Apart from that, something worth noting was the amount of walking I did around the sporting venues; ironically, one has to do some sports just to watch sports. The main star of the venues is the National Sports Complex at Bukit Jalil as it houses most of the game venues (Bukit Jalil National Stadium, Axiata Arena, National Hockey Stadium, National Aquatic Centre and the National Squash Centre). Since most events were held in these neighbouring stadiums, one has to do much walking (The Walking Dead jokes, anyone?).

Luckily for us, to recharge the battery energy used for walking, there were various food trucks and drink stores to satiate the public’s tired and hungry appetite. But I can’t help but note that some food prices were slightly marked up (a basic Ramly burger lookalike was RM4). Oh well, nothing new here.

Speaking of costly price tags, the official merchandises/souvenirs were wallet killers. Shirts and tote bags easily cost 3-figures and the cheaper shirts cost around RM45. And the downside of it was that the shirt and bag designs weren’t really fantastic so most would logically forgo buying these pricey items and instead buy cheaper (RM10 and below) souvenirs such as keychains and plastic cups.

 

Ticketing Problems

 

One of the most-complained about issues of SEA Games was most probably the ‘ticket problem’. Only certain games required tickets and though pre-orders will rolled out waaay earlier than the games, some of the ‘hot events’ were sold out in a jiffy. This is fine as people can still purchase the tickets at the venue itself. The problem started when the on-site tickets were limited in number (especially for the National Aquatic Centre), which resulted in a lot of disgruntled folks including me.

Accusing fingers can be pointed anywhere: Was this a seat capacity problem? Was this the organiser’s fault? Was the venue not fit to hold an international sports competitions? Did the number of tickets sold actually matched the number of seats in the venue? People were angry and frustrated but nobody really knows who or what was in the wrong as there could be 101 reasons; typical ‘Malaysia Boleh’ attitude.

Not surprisingly, weekends were the worst while the chances to get a ticket on a weekday would be much easier. Thank God the Athletic events at Bukit Jalil National Stadium were free though the stadium never seems to be full; things were definitely smoother there. The same unfortunately can’t be said about what happened at Shah Alam Stadium…

 

The Sports

Photo Credit: kualalumpur2017.com.my

With more than 400 events from nearly 40 sports, there were much to be at awed about. The most ‘awed about’ would certainly be the finals of any games. While there were World-class quality at some finals (an exemplary example would be the diving and cycling events), there were some that left much to be desired. As someone who watched some of the Badminton finals, the quality displayed in Axiata Arena’s centre court was at times underwhelming. To be fair to everyone, many of the good local and international players were involved in the prestigious 2017 BWF World Championships in Scotland. Regardless, it seemed silly that the audience was treated to a badminton FINAL match filled with silly errors (hitting the shuttlecock into the net, service faults and ‘out shots’). Nonetheless, the sportsmanship displayed in the SEA Games was still worthy of praise!

 

Crowd Euphoria

Photo Credit: kualalumpur2017.com.my and SEA Games 2017 Twitter page

One of the highlights of the SEA Games was none other than the crowd itself! Though there were a minority of bad apples, the majority of them were thankfully a well-behaved bunch. One can find people from all walks of life at the stadiums and when the cheering was so united, you know we really did a good job in getting our motto, “Bangkit Bersama/Rising Together” right. No matter what type of sport, the home crowd were out 110% full force to support our local athletes and it was spectacular. Country flags (Jalur Gemilang and otherwise) being waved around was a common sight that was much welcomed.

 

Every time a local athlete got a point or won a medal, it would be followed by a roaring cheering that raised the roof. And it feels da*n good to shout, raised your fist (in appropriate fashion) and to sing ‘Negaraku’ with everyone in the venue. Something else that I noticed was the presence of a sea of orange-clad cheerleaders at every game/match; they were quite a sight and cameras loved them!

 

Photo Credit: kualalumpur2017.com.my

 

All in all, despite the saltiness from some Debbie Downers, the joyful feelings of winning and loyal national pride and coupled with our 60th Merdeka celebration, the SEA Games was a spectacle to behold and it definitely uplifts the Malaysian spirit in a much-needed time.

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