It’s normally Myanmar’s politics that get the international spotlight, but this week it has been their bizarre sporting choices. The new Burmese capital Naypyidaw will host the 27th Southeast Asian Games later this year and, perhaps fittingly, they’ve chosen some new sports. Vovinam, tarungderajat, kempo and chinlone are all on the agenda and if you haven’t heard of them, you’re not alone.
In fact, most of the other nations are pissed.
Charoen Wattanasin, vice president of the Thai National Olympic Committee, complained that regulations allow for eight traditional sports, not the 14 selected by the hosts:
“Nine out of the 14 are martial arts. They are — well, I can’t even remember their names.”
All of which means that there’s no room for sports such as water polo, badminton, gymnastics, table tennis and tennis. Here’s Chaiyapak Siriwat, another vice president of the Thai NOC:
“Tennis is an Olympic sport which should be in the Games but Myanmar said they don’t have courts. Personally, I think they don’t have tennis athletes.”
Thailand wants weightlifting included, Singapore wants table tennis and water polo back in, Malaysia and Indonesia are campaigning for badminton, and so it goes on.
Myanmar hasn’t exactly downplayed allegations of rigging the draw. Htay Aung, a Sports Ministry official, actually said this:
“We also should not include some sports which our country cannot win”.
No, of course not. That would be ridiculous. To give some context, though, it’s not the first time this has happened. According to AFP, the hosts normally top the medals table, presumably by playing to their own strengths.
But wouldn’t it just be easier if Myanmar published a final medals table ahead of time? It’s an equally fair of divvying up the medals (“one for you, four for us” etc), with the added advantage of saving on a lot of travel and accommodation costs.