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ARKIB : 08/09/2001

Vietnam looking forward to hosting 2003 SEA Games

KUALA LUMPUR Sept 7 - Sports-crazy Vietnam are waiting eagerly to host the 22nd SEA Games in 2003, the first ever by the country since the inception of the biennial games in 1959.

"The people are waiting. It has been held many, many times but not once in Vietnam ... so you should know how excited we are," said Minh Hung, the deputy president of the Ho Chi Minh City Sportswriters Club.

Minh, who is here to cover the 21st SEA Games, said peace and stability, the growing economy and strong government were the main reasons why the country and its people were looking forward to the Games.

He said Vietnam, who are sending 407 athletes, were using the Kuala Lumpur Games as a stepping stone to prepare a formidable team for the 2003 Games.

To meet the growing demand for sports news in Vietnam, about 80 print journalists from the country are coming here to cover the Games, their biggest ever media contingent for an overseas assignment.

The 10-day Games will officially open on Saturday but football kicked off a week early.

He said there are about 20 daily and weekly newspapers in Vietnam as well as three television stations, with some of them providing sports news alone.

Minh, a journalist for 20 years who is covering his fifth SEA Games, said his newspaper company, Saigon Giai Phong, is producing a special SEA Games edition daily from Sept 1 to 18.

"People are very much interested in sports, especially football. In fact, if Vietnam wins a tournament, there will huge celebrations and these often end in tragedy due to road accidents," he said.

Minh said the country's national television station would be carrying 14 SEA Games football matches live, including the women's event.

Asked on the preparations by the KL SEA Games Organising Committee, Minh said he was impressed with the facilities available here, especially for the media.

"The Internet facilities are really good. Hopefully, we will have the same in 2003. It's a learning process for all of us ... I am working and learning at the same time," he said.

In a related development, Vietnam Olympic Committee vice-president and secretary-general Prof Hoang Vinh Giang said Vietnam plan to hold 30 sports when they organise the SEA Games for the first time in 2003.

He said the actual number of events would be decided after discussions with the other National Olympic Committees and the SEA Games Federation.

Hoang said Vietnam had already started their preparations to host the Games by sending an eight-man team to Malaysia on Aug 28.

Close to 60 officials from the organising committee and other departments would be here on a study tour, he said.

This was made possible with the cooperation extended by Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) president Tunku Imran Tuanku Ja'afar and secretary Datuk Sieh Kok Chi who have allowed them to work with the Kuala Lumpur SEA Games organising committee.

"This will definitely help us a lot. We try to understand from the beginning how to organise a big event like this," said Hoang, who is also Vietnam's chef-de-mission to the 21st SEA Games here.

Hoang said they were paying attention to the aspects of security and sending of entry forms, among other things.

"We want to organise a better SEA Games. That is why we are here to study from Malaysia which has plenty of experience in organising SEA Games and other major events," he said.

He said the Vietnamese government was spending a lot of money upgrading sports facilities and building new ones, including a 40,000-seat stadium.

"This will be the biggest stadium in the country. We are spending about US$60 million to US$70 million for that," he said.

The 2003 Games would be the biggest ever sporting event to be organised by the country, said Hoang.

He said 20 sports would be held in Hanoi and the rest in Ho Chi Minh City, the biggest city in Vietnam.

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