38 sports with 405 events for SEA Games

KUALA LUMPUR — The SEA Games Federation (SEAGF) endorsed yesterday the 38 sports which will see 405 events at next year’s edition of the biennial sports spectacle in Kuala Lumpur.

Olympic Council of Malaysia president Tunku Imran Tuanku Jaáfar chaired the SEAGF meeting to finalise the overall framework of the Games.

The principal decision concerned turning down a proposal to stage the SEA Games and Asean Para Games simultaneously.

The matter was put to a vote on the first day of the two-day SEAGF conclave on Wednesday. It went 10–1 against a joint staging.

Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin addressed yesterday’s session, in a final attempt to have SEAGF reconsider the executive committee’s decision.

The vote taken shifted slightly to 9-2 with Laos the only member moved by Khairy’s presentation.

“The decision is set in stone. We shall now move our focus to hosting the best ever SEA Games. Any more appeals to include more events will not be entertained,” Tunku Imran said.

Other matters decided included staging two new categories for sepaktakraw.

Previously, the committee had proposed to replace the men’s and women’s doubles with a team quadrant.

It was decided there would be no replacement as the men’s and women’s quadrant will be introduced, bringing the total number of gold medals on offer in the discipline to 12.

The proposal to stage a baton run involving all Southeast Asian nations was discussed as a build-up — in the Olympic mould — to the Games. The committee proposed to work out its details.

Lastly, the committee discussed staging the marathon as a curtain raiser while opening it to public participation.

The proposal is to stage the run in Putrajaya, with different start times for public participants and for athletes competing for medals.

“Both the baton run and marathon are on our list of things that we want to see happen. Having the marathon as the curtain raiser is unprecedented and might be the module for future Games,” said Tunku Imran.

The anti-doping protocol for the Games has also been confirmed. There will be 600 random tests and 10 per cent of blood samples will be taken in the course of the Games.

All sample collections will be done on site and sent to the World Anti Doping Agency’s approved lab in New Delhi called the National Dope Testing Laboratory.

Khairy was visibly disappointed with the decision of the SEAGF but said he had to consider the opinions of other nations.

“Even though we were ready to host both Games together, we have to take into consideration other nations’ trepidations on a joint event,” said a dismayed but acquiescent Khairy.

“Issues brought up were that some of their coaches are also coaches for the para athletes which would make things a scheduling nightmare while technical issues like logistics and access to venues posed other problems.

“We need some time before we decide when to have the Para Games,” said Khairy.

The SEA Games is set for Aug 19-31 next year while the Asean Para Games was originally scheduled for Sept 17-23.

Strong plea for
joint Games fails

PASSION, compassion, commitment, ability, reducing costs, leaving a legacy, giving para athletes a platform to be equals and all other reasoning failed to convince the SEA Games Federation (SEAGF) Council to agree to jointly hold the 29th SEA Games and 9th Asean Para Games next year.

Even Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin’s well-presented reasoning in a final attempt yesterday morning at the SEAGF Council meeting failed to reverse the 10-1 vote on Wednesday afternoon by the SEAGF executive committee against the joint hosting of the Games.

To Khairy’s credit, his passionate presentation and plea drew admiration from the delegates but when it came to making a final decision, the SEAGF Council voted 9-2 to see the SEA Games hosted separately.

The proposal for the joint Games was made by the Malaysian SEA Games Organising Committee’s (Masoc).

It was a noble idea to host both Games simultaneously for the first time ever, but the SEAGF members were united in their stand.

After all, the SEAGF is 58 years old and after 28 Games, they were not prepared to share their platform with Asean Para Games which will be into the ninth edition.

The Para Games has been traditionally held after the SEA Games and besides, both Games are governed by separate bodies.

There were no formal discussions between Asean Para Sports Federation (APSF) and SEAGF. Even those within APSF were not unanimous as eight agreed to joint Games while three were against, according to the Masoc presentation.

The Malaysian Paralympic Council (MPC) also did not engage the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) and it was no surprise the SEAGF executive committee were caught off-guard when Masoc made a presentation on the proposal.

Some SEAGF members even complained that their respective Paralympic councils had not made any mention of their interest of joint Games.

In the end, it boiled down to the SEAGF exco questioning whether the interest of the athletes of both Games was taken into consideration.

The members were apprehensive that while the idea of joint Games was noble, the chances were the Para Games athletes would be overshadowed by athletes of the SEA Games and whether that would augur well for the promotion of the latter.

Some members even said they would not have voted for Malaysia to host the SEA Games had they known it wanted to host the Para Games jointly.

Many said it was not just about Malaysia but also other nations who had constraints in taking part in joint Games.

In a nutshell, the SEAGF were concerned over impact of the joint Games and they stood together as a family to uphold their identity.

OCM president Tunku Imran Ja’afar, who chairs the SEAGF Council, said Khairy presented the case very well but the SEAGF family had to make a decision with the SEA Games at heart.

Kudos to Khairy for making every effort to have the joint Games but a decision has been made and it is time to move on.

There was even talk that Malaysia would go ahead to host the Games jointly with or without the blessings of the SEAGF, but it is heartening that common sense prevailed.

Probably the SEAGF decision is a blessing in disguise as Malaysia can now host the Games separately and ensure both are successful.

With just a year before Malaysia host its sixth Games (after 1965, 1971, 1977, 1989 and 2001), it is hoped all quarters will join hands and work hard to make both Games memorable.

TONY is a sports

journalist with more than

three decades of experience

and is passionate about

local sports.

He can be reached at

tmariadass@gmail.com

Twitter: @tmariadass​​

Zika won’t KO Lydia’s dream

WELLINGTON — World No 1 Lydia Ko says she’s too excited about playing golf at the Olympic Games to worry about the Zika virus — and most other women on tour feel the same.

Ko, 19, said she trusted the advice of health experts and was thrilled at the prospect of becoming an Olympian for New Zealand.

“I’m more excited about the Olympics, about the ceremony, about just being part of the Olympic vibe than worrying about the Zika virus,” she said.

“There are so many experts that are taking care of all that… we’ve just got to trust them.”

The two-time major winner said
other women golfers were similarly excited.

“To all the girls that I’ve talked to, that’s kind of the response,” Ko said in the pre-Olympic interview that preceded Jordan Spieth’s withdrawal this week from the men’s event.

“We’re all excited to go to Brazil and represent our countries and be there amongst the other Olympians.

“It’s unfortunate with what’s happening with the Zika, but we all trust the people that are taking care of it,” she told AFP in the June interview, before she went public with her views.

Ko made similar comments ahead of this week’s LPGA Marathon Classic in Ohio, saying: “If it was so dangerous that we couldn’t compete… I’m sure they would pull us off.”

World No 1 Jason Day of Australia, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy and Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama are among the other top men who are not participating.

McIlroy gave a blunt assessment this week of the Olympics’ place in the pecking order for male golfers, saying he probably would not even watch the Rio tournament.

When asked what he would tune into during the Games, McIlroy added: “Probably the events like track and field, swimming, diving, events that matters.”
— AFP

Felix: Clampdown on doping the way to go

LOS ANGELES — Crackdown on athletes caught up in recent doping scandals is a step in the right direction for the sport, Allyson Felix says, but the American sprinter is still worried it will not be a level playing field at next month’s Rio Olympics.

Athletics has been under the spotlight due to a doping scandal that saw Russia banned from competing in the sport at the Rio Games after a World Anti-Doping Agency report uncovered systematic abuse in the country.

Kenya’s team were also in danger of missing Rio before their government passed legislation that complied with anti-doping codes.

“The number of scandals we see now just shows the real issues that are there in sports,” Felix told reporters in Beverley Hills. “I would say that my confidence isn’t high to think that there are not real issues.

Felix said athletics was working hard to clean up the sport.

“It is hard … but I hope we are moving in the right direction,” she added. “Exposing athletes guilty of doping which is happening now is a step in the right direction.”

Felix, who won the 200 at the London Games in 2012, had been attempting to do a 200-400 double at Rio but battled an ankle injury in the lead up to the trials in Oregon.

The injury had affected her conditioning and she failed to qualify for the 200 by 0.01 seconds.

“I think injuries are a part of sport and it is something that you just have to deal with,” she added.

“For me I feel so grateful to have made this team at all as two months ago I was not even walking.

“It’s pretty amazing to me that I’m still going to Rio and going after it with everything I have.” — Reuters

IN BRIEF

Golf withdrawals frustrate squash

Rio de Janeiro — The growing number of leading golfers withdrawing from the Rio Olympics has disappointed the sport of squash, Professional Squash Association (PSA) chief executive Alex Gough has said. Squash was among the sports short-listed for possible inclusion at the 2020 Olympics but failed to make the final list of five, with golf selected for the Tokyo Games. Australia’s Adam Scott, who will also skip the Games, told Reuters a year ago he considered Olympic golf to be an “exhibition” event, with other sports much more deserving of Games exposure. “It has been intensely frustrating. Quite honestly, it was almost predictable,” Gough told British media. Squash, played in more than 185 countries, has made great strides in modernising the sport, with the PSA taking the game to iconic venues such as New York’s Grand Central Station. — Reuters

Pokémon Go at Rio

Rio de Janeiro — Could hunting for a Pokemon get any hotter? Maybe in Rio, so the city about to host the Olympic Games is urging makers of the popular app to come down to Brazil. “Hello Nintendo! There are 23 days until the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Everybody’s coming. You should come on down too,” Mayor Eduardo Paes said on Facebook, with the hashtag #PokemonGoNoBrasil (Pokemon Go in Brazil). Since its release in the United States, Australia and New Zealand last week, the free Pokemon Go smartphone game that overlays play on the real world has triggered a major craze. Some, like Paes, think people might enjoy hunting around the city’s landmarks like Copacabana beach. Half a million foreign tourists are expected in Rio for South America’s first Olympics from August 5 to 21. — AFP

Aussies’ golden ambition

Sydney — Jesse Parahi’s decision to ditch rugby league and pursue an Olympic dream paid off when he was named in Australia’s sevens squad for Rio. Veteran Ed Jenkins skippers the side with coach Andy Friend naming no big-name Wallaby recruits. “The team went really well this year and it gave a few guys a chance on the circuit which was great for the side’s development,” Jenkins said. The Australian men are ranked fourth in the world, but the women are number one after winning the Rugby Sevens World Series this year in dominant fashion. Forwards Sharni Williams and Shannon Parry co-captain the 12-strong side that also features the likes of Emilee Cherry, Charlotte Caslick and Ellia Green. “Our goal is to go to Rio and win gold and it is something we speak about every day,” said Williams. — AFP

Drama builds in Trump running mate reality TV show

NEW YORK — It was a day of scripted and unscripted moments as Donald Trump’s vice presidential selection played out on live television Wednesday.

As reporters chased him across Indianapolis with cameras rolling, Trump stepped up his running mate try-outs to another level, spending time bonding with three potential candidates—four members of his family at his side to help him make the big decision. Then, at day’s end, the billionaire previewed his next episode.

“I will be making the announcement of my Vice Presidential pick on Friday at 11 a.m. in Manhattan,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “Details to follow.”

“It’s just ‘The Apprentice’ without a board room,” said Republican media consultant Rick Wilson, referring to Trump’s former reality TV show.

Trump was supposed to be at home in New York City Wednesday, but in an unexpected plot twist, found himself spending the night in Indiana thanks to a broken tire on his private jet.

He ate breakfast with Indiana Governor Mike Pence at the governor’s mansion, then huddled with former House Speaker Newt Gingrich in a private room at an upscale Indianapolis hotel, before flying with Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions to California for a fundraiser Wednesday night.

Along the way, the GOP presumptive nominee kept viewers guessing, only revealing cryptically that he had trimmed his list down to “three. Potentially four.”

“But,” he added in an interview with Fox News, “in my own mind, I’m probably thinking about two.”

Trump has seemed to relish putting his decision making process on display, and adding reality TV flair to the proceedings.

Republicans in Cleveland said they were impressed with this show, and newly excited by the prospect of a successful convention because Trump shows he seems to be finding the sweet spot between teleprompters and loose rants.

“I don’t think anybody can predict what Donald Trump’s going to do, but I do really like the manner in which he’s doing it,” Jeff Cardwell, chairman of the Indiana Republican Party told Bloomberg in between sessions of the Republican National Committee meeting in Cleveland Wednesday.

The drama and giddy VP speculation started on Tuesday after reporters spotted Trump and three of his adult children—Donald Jr., Ivanka, and Eric—entering Pence’s Indianapolis home, along with Ivanka’s husband, Jared Kushner, and Trump campaign strategist Paul Manafort.

When they emerged than an hour later, Trump and Pence posed arm-in-arm for a photo, shook hands with each other and waved to the reporters gathered on the sidewalk nearby.

Trump has been spending a sizable amount of time with Pence, a former US congressman who could help the political novice build relationships in Washington and gain credibility with social conservatives.

Over the Fourth of July weekend, Trump and Pence played golf together and gathered with their wives and one of Pence’s daughters. Tuesday night, after their appearances at a Trump campaign rally and a fundraiser, they had dinner together at the Conrad Indianapolis, an upscale hotel, people familiar with the matter said.

Pence offered a stream of not-so-subtle tweets as he pushed to be the VP choice.

“We will not rest until we elect @realDonaldTrump as the next President of the United States of America!” Pence said on Twitter on Tuesday.

On Wednesday, Pence told reporters his conversation with the Trumps focused on “the progress the state of Indiana has made, and how we’ve been able to have balanced budgets, make record investments in education, in infrastructure, even health care, and still cut taxes every year that I’ve been governor.”

Pence described the Trumps as “a good family.” 

“It’s great to have them in Indiana, great to have a chance to break bread. Nothing was offered. Nothing was accepted,” he said.

Later in the day, Gingrich huddled with Trump, the kids and Manafort and it went well, people familiar with the meeting told Bloomberg, who said Trump thinks he has “great options” for a running mate. Reached by phone, Gingrich declined to comment.

Wilson argued that the upside of Gingrich as VP is that “like Trump, he’s a flamethrower and a showman.”

“He’s morally flexible enough to glide over any policy disagreements he might have, and enough of a student of history to know how to play to the Great Man’s ego and narcissism,” Wilson told Bloomberg Politics. “The downside of Newt is his florid, overwrought intellect, a retelling of the entire Clinton Wars 1.0 narrative, and his general lack of focus from moment to moment.”

Christie, Wilson said, would be “the most reliable lackey for a man who loves a good lackey.”

The downside? “He doesn’t bring you New Jersey. He doesn’t bring you any demographic of Republican Trump doesn’t already have,” Wilson said.

GOP strategist Curt Anderson said he’d be shocked to see Trump pick Gingrich or Christie.

“Both are uncontrollable, and known to go rogue from time to time,” Anderson said.

“The Pence thing both makes sense and is odd to me,” Anderson said. “Governor Pence is charismatically challenged. But that may be the very reason he is under consideration.”

Ohio Congressman Rob Portman, who will visit the Ohio delegation at the GOP convention but won’t be speaking, said the general chatter he hears about vice presidential possibilities includes Pence and Gingrich, as well as former Central Intelligence Agency Director David Petraeus and Iowa Senator Joni Ernst, who aren’t believed to be on Trump’s short list.

“I think all of them bring something very positive to the campaign,” Portman told Bloomberg Politics. “Then the question is what do they bring to governing? I hope he picks someone who knows how to get things done in this town.”

Roy Blunt, a congressman from Missouri, who knew Pence well during Pence’s 12 years in Congress, said the Indiana Republican would “be a fine addition to the ticket.”

“I think as a candidate Donald Trump particularly benefits now from who he surrounds himself with because that’s the way to send a message to the country as to the way he would conduct himself as president,” Blunt said. “I think VP choice matters. I think other people that he engages either as advisers or surrogates between now and November will send an important signal to the American people as to how he’ll govern.”

Fox News Channel suspended its contributor agreement with Gingrich “effective immediately,” it said in a statement Tuesday, citing political speculation that could pose a conflict of interest.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal published Tuesday, Trump said he wanted a running mate who could be a “fighter skilled in hand-to-hand combat,” a description seen as more fitting of Gingrich and Christie than of the more mild-mannered Pence.

“Who Trump chooses doesn’t matter even a little bit,” Anderson said. “By this fall it will all be about Trump versus Hillary, and no one will care at all or base their votes on who the VP candidates are.”

Cardwell, the Indiana GOP chairman, said Trump’s Indiana fundraising event Tuesday had a US$500,000 (RM1.97 million) goal, and that the campaign more than tripled that amount. 

“A lot of people are very excited about his campaign, his candidacy, and it’s picking up a lot of steam,” Cardwell said. — Bloomberg

Funerals begin for slain Dallas police officers

DALLAS — Funerals were held on Wednesday for two of the five officers killed in last week’s sniper shooting in Dallas, a day after President Barack Obama addressed a public memorial service honouring the slain policemen.

Onlookers paused to pay their respects to Lorne Ahrens of the Dallas Police Department and Brent Thompson, an officer with Dallas Area Rapid Transit, as public funeral processions snaked along area roads.

A Catholic Mass was held for a third officer, Michael Smith, whose funeral was planned for yesterday.

The men were among five officers shot to death last week during an ambush by a black gunman who said he was acting in revenge for recent shootings of black Americans by white police officers.

The gunman, 25-year-old Micah Johnson, was killed during the July 7 standoff.

During the funeral service at the cavernous Prestonwood Baptist Church in Plano, Texas, fellow officer Debbie Taylor described Ahrens, 48, as a “gentle giant” who “strived to be the best, most knowledgeable officer”.

Police comprised most of the audience at the suburban Dallas church, which seats 7,000.

Eddie Coffey, who studied at the police academy at the same time as Ahrens, recalled his tattooed friend’s love of heavy-metal music.

At a concurrent service attended by about 3,000 people at the Potter’s House Church in Dallas, slain officer Thompson, 43, was remembered as a “family man” and practical joker.

Police believe Thompson died trying to save Ahrens during the shootout.

“I would have done anything in my power to have been there with Brent in those final moments, even if the outcome would have been the same,” fellow officer Joseph Kyser said.

Funeral services have not yet been held for two other slain officers, Patricio Zamarripa, 32, known as Patrick, to be buried tomorrow, and Michael Krol, for whom services are still pending. — AFP

Trump to name running mate today

WASHINGTON — White House hopeful Donald Trump will announce his pick for vice-president in New York today, he said on Twitter, as speculation runs rampant over a handful of potential running mates.

Among those believed to be at the top of the Republican’s list are Indiana Governor Mike Pence, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and former speaker of the House Newt Gingrich.

“I will be making the announcement of my vice-presidential pick on Friday at 11am in Manhattan. Details to follow,” the 70-year-old real estate mogul posted on Twitter on Wednesday.

In an interview earlier in the day with Fox News, Trump said he had narrowed the field down to “three, potentially four, but in my own mind, I probably am thinking about two”.

The announcement comes just a day after Trump finished campaigning in Indiana alongside Pence, the 57-year-old governor who is seen as someone with a steady tone who might soften Trump’s combativeness.

“I’m honoured to be considered and humbled to be considered,” Pence told reporters.

“The conversations we have had between two families is something we’ll cherish the rest of our lives, no matter the outcome.”

Pence, a former radio host, served six terms representing his home state in Congress. A fiscal conservative and lawyer by training, he was House Republican Conference chairman from 2009-11.

According to CNN, Trump and three of his children had breakfast with Pence in the governor’s mansion on Wednesday. Gingrich also met with Trump during the day, while Christie talked with him on the phone.

Christie, 53, a tough-talking politician described as a political bruiser, already campaigned with Trump in Virginia on Monday.

Trump meanwhile has voiced support for Gingrich – a 73-year-old political veteran who himself ran for president in 2012 — telling The New York Times “Newt is Newt. He’s a good guy.”

Gingrich packs the political punch that Trump lacks. He was in Congress for 20 years and speaker of the House of Representatives from 1995-99 during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

Trump’s vice-presidential pick could be one of the most important decisions he makes on the campaign trail as he seeks to present a competent, steady wingman or woman to US voters after a turbulent primary season during which his provocative rhetoric frustrated many conservatives.

Next week, the Republican Party will head to Cleveland, Ohio for a national convention at which Trump will be formally nominated to run against his Democratic rival, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton.

Trump had earlier called on US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg to resign after she lambasted him in a series of media interviews.

He led a chorus of outrage over the comments by Ginsburg, who described Trump as a “faker” and speculated about the possibility of moving to New Zealand if he won the White House.

In a post-midnight counterattack on Twitter, Trump said the 83-year-old leader of the court’s liberal wing had “embarrassed all by making very dumb political statements about me. Her mind is shot — resign!”

The furor gave Trump a cause to help galvanise conservatives divided over his unorthodox candidacy but concerned that the High Court is too liberal, a mistrust fuelled by recent rulings upholding racial preferences in university admissions and striking down tough abortion restrictions in Texas.

In three recent interviews, Ginsburg questioned how Trump had gotten away with not turning over his tax returns and said she could not bear to think about the wealthy real estate developer winning the White House.

In response, Trump said Ginsburg had politicised the Supreme Court with her comments and suggested she owed her fellow justices an apology.

“I’m questioning her mental capacity,” he told Fox News Channel on Wednesday. “For her to have done that is an absolute disgrace to the Supreme Court.”

Other Republicans jumped to join the attack, saying Ginsburg had proven she could not be an impartial voice on the country’s highest court.

“For someone on the Supreme Court who is going to be calling balls and strikes in the future based upon whatever the next president or Congress does, that strikes me as inherently biased and out of the realm,” Republican House of Representatives Speaker Paul Ryan said on CNN on Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called her comments “totally inappropriate,” while Senator John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican, said Ginsburg’s statements reflected poorly on her objectivity.

The New York Times joined in the rebukes, asking her to uphold the court’s tradition of silence in political campaigns and drop the “punditry and name-calling.” — Agencies

S. Korean villagers protest plans for anti-missile system

SEOUL — After South Korea announced on Wednesday a rural southern county would be the site of an advanced American missile defence battery — the planned deployment of which has angered China and North Korea — thousands of local residents demonstrated against the plan.

Villagers rallied under a sweltering sun to condemn the choice of their county, Seongju, 217km southeast of Seoul, for the so-called Terminal High-Altitude Area Defence system, known as THAAD, The New York Times reported.

The residents fear it will threaten their health and ruin their agricultural economy, but South Korea and the US say the missile and radar system is needed to defend the country and American forces stationed here against North Korean missiles.

The Times, quoting the Yonhap news agency, said the protesters chanted “We oppose THAAD with our lives!” and held banners that bore the same slogan.

Local political leaders, wearing red headbands, wrote the same vow in blood after cutting their fingers, a form of protest that has a long history in South Korea. Some of the politicians and protest leaders also began a hunger strike, it said.

“If we lose our precious land to THAAD, we will be ashamed before our ancestors and posterity,” the report quoted Kim Hang-gon, who oversees the Seongju county government, as telling the crowd.

The protesters included aging melon farmers. The county, which has a population of about 50,000, provides 60 per cent of all melons sold in South Korea.

The Times said the opposition could bode ill for the American and South Korean militaries, which hope to install the THAAD battery by late next year. In the past, villagers have joined forces with environmental and political activists to initiate prolonged and often violent campaigns against new US military bases.

Most South Koreans support the country’s military alliance with the US, citing the need to deter the North, it said.

But many also fear that any expansion of the American military presence could worsen tensions with the North and with China, and in some cases could damage local ways of life.

After South Korea and the US announced the agreement to deploy THAAD last Friday, local news reports mentioned Seongju and several other towns as possible sites. Protests against THAAD have since been held in those communities. Some demonstrators expressed concern that hosting the system could make their towns high-priority targets for North Korea in the event of war.

AFP said the deployment, when completed by the end of next year, will be able to cover up to two-thirds of South Korea from North Korean missiles. It will also protect key industrial facilities, including nuclear power plants and oil depots.

Quoting Yonhap, it said although military bases in the South will also be protected by the missile system, Seoul and its surrounding areas will be left out. This could mean the military deploying more US Patriot anti-air and missile defence systems in these areas.

North Korea threatened on Monday to take “physical action” against the planned deployment of the powerful anti-missile system. The move has also angered Beijing and Moscow, which both see it as a US bid to boost military might in the region.

China said the move would “seriously damage” regional security in northeast Asia.

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