SINGAPORE - While it's all systems go for next year's South-east Asia (SEA) Games as Singapore gets ready to Celebrate the Extraordinary, all the participating nations will keep an eye on some pressing issues that dog the sporting world.
Malaysia were rocked when first wushu exponent Tai Cheau Xuan, and then world No. 1 shuttler Lee Chong Wei, failed drug tests recently.
After the chefs de mission (CDM) from all 11 countries met for a preview of some of the tournament venues yesterday, Singapore CDM Nicholas Fang told The New Paper it "would be the first SEA Games to introduce blood testing".
He added: "It's ground-breaking and it's a stricter protocol to catch drug cheats, which we also implemented for the 2010 Youth Olympic Games held here.
"During the build-up, and not just at the Games itself, testing will also be carried out.
"Anti-Doping Singapore is also working with athletes to reinforce the point that there is no room for doping or cheating."
Cambodia National Olympic Council secretary general Vath Chamroeun also revealed that his country had set up a National Anti- Doping Agency last year to educate athletes on how to avoid being caught up in this unwittingly.
He said: "Coaches, athletes and sports federations have to control the doping issue strictly, and send out the message that doping can destroy their future.
"Many athletes in Asia don't know what they are doing when they take certain energy drinks or use traditional medicine."
South-east Asia has also picked up an unwanted reputation for being a match-fixing hotspot, and Philippines CDM Julian Camacho urged all countries to be on high alert.
"Match-fixing is not just happening in this region, but also in Europe," he said. "While it may not be as rampant as doping, we still need to be on our toes."
Even though the spectacular opening and closing ceremonies were sold out last year in Myanmar, the Games was also noted for poor attendances in certain events.
But Fang is confident of a good turnout next year, saying: "This will be a special SEA Games, which will be a big part of our SG50 celebrations.
"It has been quite a while since we last hosted one in 1993, and there are a lot of expectations and excitement to watch the SEA Games at home.
"The buzz has been building for many years and our athletes have been doing well recently.
"It has also been announced that the events will be spread around the island and 50 per cent of the events will be free for the public to attend.
"So I'm confident there will be an enthusiastic crowd turning up to support the SEA Games."
This is not the same as other SEA Games, where six months before (the scheduled start), construction isn't completed. Singapore has everything ready, they can even host the Games tomorrow. - Cambodia National Olympic Council secretary general Vath Chamroeun
There are 19 or 20 hotels, and this is a little bit harder for us because we need more people to manage things. If it was a village, we would have all (our athletes) in one place. - Philippines chef de mission Julian Camacho, on accommodation.
This article was first published on November 27, 2014.
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