Southeast Asian Games

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Southeast Asian Games
SEA Games logo.svg
The Southeast Asian Games Federation logo and flag.
Abbreviation SEA Games
First event 1959 SEAP Games in Bangkok, Thailand
Occur every 2 years
Last event 2015 SEA Games in Singapore
Purpose Multi sport event for nations on the Southeast Asian continent
Headquarters Bangkok, Thailand
President Charouck Arirachakaran

The Southeast Asian Games (also known as the SEA Games), is a biennial multi-sport event involving participants from the current 11 countries of Southeast Asia. The games is under regulation of the Southeast Asian Games Federation with supervision by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Olympic Council of Asia.



On 22 May 1958, delegates from the countries in Southeast Asian Peninsula attending the Asian Games in Tokyo, Japan had a meeting and agreed to establish a sport organisation. The SEAP Games was conceptualised by Luang Sukhum Nayaoradit, then Vice-President of the Thailand Olympic Committee. The proposed rationale was that a regional sports event will help promote co-operation, understanding and relations among countries in the Southeast Asian region.

There was a certain logic to the idea. The countries of the region had many similarities. Modest of population and on a comparable economic footing, they shared common sports participation as well as roughly equal standards of achievement. Such an event would serve as a stepping stone for Southeast Asian athletes to raise their standards so as to be more competitive when they met more advantaged athletes in the larger arenas of the Asian Games and Olympic Games.

The meeting resulted in the formation of the Southeast Asian Peninsula (SEAP) Games Federation in June 1959, the founder members being Burma (now Myanmar), Kampuchea (now Cambodia), Laos, Malaya (now Malaysia), Thailand and Vietnam - hence the six interlocked rings which formed the Games logo. The first president of the Federation was General Prabhas Charusatiara of Thailand and Luang Mayapradit was elected vice president with Dr Kalya Israsena taking the role of honorary secretary. Other pioneer members of the committee included Ms U Paing of Burma, His Highness Sisowath Essaro of Cambodia, Mr Nakkhla Souvannong of Laos, Mr Thong Poh Nyen of Malaysia and Mr Bguyen Phuoc Vong of Vietnam.[1]

Early years

Thailand was given the honour of hosting the inaugural 1st SEAP Games in 1959. Formally declared open by His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej of Thailand in Bangkok’s National Stadium, some 800 athletes and officials took part in 12 sporting disciplines; athletics, badminton, basketball, boxing, cycling, football, tennis, shooting, swimming, table tennis, volleyball and weightlifting. The atmosphere of friendly competition added to the whole experience and the SEAP Games were definitely making a good start.

The Federation had already decided that in future "the honour of hosting the SEAP Games shall be entrusted to the member organisation of each country in rotation in alphabetical order". Thus the hosts for the 2nd SEAP Games were the Burmese, and President Win Maung of the Union of Burma inaugurated the 1961 meet at Rangoon. Cambodia did not take part in the inaugural Games but joined the fray in the second Games at Rangoon in 1961 which had a full turnout of the seven countries. Again, more than 800 athletes and officials took part and shared in the friendly ambience of athletic rivalry and social interaction.

The year 1963 saw a hiccup in planning though, as due to unsettling in-country conditions - and a disagreement with the International Amateur Athletic Federation- the designated hosts Cambodia were not able to host the event. The 3rd SEAP Games then passed to Laos as hosts, but they begged off the 1965 event citing financial difficulties. Fortunately though, Malaysia steeped into the breach which, by right, should have been held in 1963 and the eight days sporting extravaganza was held in Kuala Lumpur with around 1,300 athletes and officials taking part. By now the SEAP Games Federation had gained another member with Singapore’s independence from Malaysia in August 1965.

The incapability of Cambodia, Laos and South Vietnam to take on the job of hosting the Games in the foreseeable future raised some concern among the other member countries. Even the participation of these countries was limited to token squads. In 1967, Cambodia again declined to host the Games, but Thailand took over and some 1,200 participants gathered in Bangkok. The next scheduled hosts were Vietnam, but they too had to reluctantly inform the Federation that troubles in the country prevented them from fulfilling their obligations, and the 5th SEAP Games returned to Rangoon.


Singapore, the youngest member of the family, made the first move to alleviate the situation. In 1969 at Rangoon the 5th SEAP Games were held, they proposed changing the SEAP Games name to Southeast Asia (SEA) Games. No names were mentioned but it was clear that Singapore thought of reinforcements from Indonesia and Philippines to help lift the sagging fortunes of the series. These two countries, which were more advanced in the affairs of international sport than the original members of the SEAP Games Federation, would not only be able to help out in the hosts job which was going abetting but also provides contestants of a higher standard in some events.

Thailand held on to their belief that the SEAP Games should be a small family affair and that going out of the peninsular would defeat the original purpose of the Games. An expanded Games would also not be in the real spirit of close neighbours. Two years later, when Kuala Lumpur’s turn to officially host the VI SEAP Games for the second time in six years, Malaysia joined hands with Singapore to resubmit the name change proposal. Again, there was no success.

The Games continued in their original framework but the serious competition was provided only by Thailand, Burma, Malaysia and Singapore. Cambodia (later Khmer Republic), Laos and South Vietnam sent competitors who were mostly full time soldiers with little or no training in the events they were entered. The four "active" countries who had carry the burden of hosting the Games were further depleted when Burma showed no further interest in helping out after hosting the 1969 Games, due to the deteriorating economy in their country.

Singapore hosted the 7th SEAP Games for the first time with a full turnout of seven countries being held at the new and modern National Stadium in 1973. However, when Bangkok took its turn as host for the 8th SEAP Games two years later, only four members organisations turned up - political problems in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam prevented their participation and cast serious doubts on their ability to take part in upcoming events anytime soon. An idea that had flamed so boldly into life less that two decades before now seemed liable to be extinguished, crippled by regional political problems and the increasing cost burden of hosting the event so regularly - Thailand had already hosted the Games three times, and Burma and Malaysia twice apiece. A lifeline was needed.

Malaysia tendered a suggestion - extend the Federation to include other countries in the Southeast Asian region. To back up its proposal, Malaysia offered to again host the Games on the proviso that Brunei, Indonesia and Philippines be invited to take part. A solution had been found and on 5 February 1977, these three new members were officially welcomed into the Federation. Present on this occasion were Ferry Sonneville of Indonesia and Colonel Nereo Andolong of the Philippines. Still, it was not plain sailing. Behind the scenes persuasion on the eve of the meeting by Olympic Council of Malaysia President, Tan Sri Hamzah Abu Samah got Thailand to withdraw some reservations about a change in name for the Games. Thailand, with good reason, viewed the Games with some sentiment. They were instrumental in starting the series and did not wish to let their early work go to waste. With fresh life breathed into the biennial event, the only cosmetic change required was to drop the word "Peninsula" from the federation’s title - the emblem and the sequential numbering of the Games would remain to perpetuate the objectives, aspirations and contributions of the original founders.

Since 1977

The 9th SEA Games (the first to bear that title ) was held in Kuala Lumpur in 1977 with seven countries participating. Indonesia and the Philippines have been of full value to the movement since becoming members. As new members of the club, Indonesia hosted the 10th SEA Games in Jakarta in 1979, and the Philippines hosted for the first time in 1981 in Manila when over 2,000 athletes and officials took part. The 12th SEA Games were to be held in Brunei to start anew the alphabetical schedule of hosts, but Singapore took over when the tiny nation begged off because of its preparations for the celebration of its forthcoming independence from the United Kingdom.

Since that time the Games have gone from strength to strength, the 13th SEA Games being held in Bangkok, 14th SEA Games in Jakarta and the 15th SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur in 1989, which saw the return of Laos and Vietnam for the first time under the new title. Manila hosted the next SEA Games, followed by Singapore when 4,6ll athletes and officials were on hand. The 18th SEA Games in Chiang Mai broke new ground in that it was the first time the Games had been held outside the capital city of the host nation; it was also the first time that all 10 member nations - the last re-entry being Cambodia - turned up to compete. The 19th SEA Games was held at Jakarta with a record number of 6007 athletes and officials participated. A total of 34 sporting disciplines with 1,432 medals were offered in this Game. It was a far cry from the first Games held in Thailand 38 years ago, when 800 pioneers turned up to contest 12 sporting events.

After much coaxing from the Southeast Asia Games Federation Council, Brunei Darussalam accepted to host the 20th SEA Games for the first time. In view of the facilities available, a total of 21 sporting disciplines were offered. East Timor's (now Timor Leste) independence from Indonesia saw them becoming the eleventh member in 2001 and participate the Games for the first time during 22nd SEA Games in Vietnam. The 25th SEA Games was the first time Laos has ever hosted a Southeast Asian Games (Laos had previously declined hosting the 1965 Southeast Asian Peninsular Games citing financial difficulties) and also commemorated the 50 years of the Southeast Asian Games, held in Vientiane, Laos.

Participating countries

Nation / IOC Designation Debuted IOC-Code Notes
 Brunei (IOC designation: Brunei Darussalam)
IHO 1952
 Laos (IOC designation: Lao People's Democratic Republic)
BIR 1948–1992
IOA 2000
 Vietnam (IOC designation: Viet Nam)


A host nation must stage at least a minimum of 22 sports. For each sport and event, a minimum of four member-country must participate to be included in the SEA Games. Sports competed shall not offer more than 5% of total medal tally, with the exception to athletics, aquatics, and shooting. Two compulsory sports (Category 1); athletics and aquatics must be stage in every SEA Games edition, in addition to a minimum of 14 sports from Category 2 and a maximum of 8 sports from Category 3. According to SEAGF Charter and Rules, sports competed in Olympic Games and Asian Games must be given priority or preference.[1]

Category 1: Compulsory sports[1]
Sport Years
(swimming, synchronised swimming,
diving, waterpolo)
Athletics All

Category 2: Sports in the Olympic Games and Asian Games[1]

Sport Years
Archery 1977–1997, since 2001
Badminton All
Baseball 2005–2007, 2011
Basketball 1979–2003, 2007, since 2011
Billiards and snooker Since 1991
Bowling (tenpin) 1977–1979, 1983–2001, 2005–2007, 2011, since 2015
Boxing All
Canoe/Kayak 1985, 1995, 2001, 2005–2007, since 2011
Cycling 1959-1979, since 1983
Equestrian 1983, 1995, 2001, 2005–2007, since 2011
Fencing 1987–1995, 1999–2007, 2011, since 2015
Football All
Golf 1985–1997, 2001, since 2005
Gymnastics 1979–1981, 1985–1997, 2001–2007, 2011, since 2015
Handball 2005–2007
Hockey 1971–1979, 1983, 1987–1989, 1993–2001, 2007, since 2013
Judo 1967–1997, 2001–2007, since 2011
Karate 1985–1991, 1995–1997, 2001–2013
Sport Years
Modern pentathlon Never
Polo 2007
Rowing 1989–1991, 1997, 2001–2007, since 2011
Rugby union/Rugby 7's 1969, 1977–1979, 1995, 2007, since 2015
Sailing 1961, 1969–1971, 1975–1977, 1983–1997, 2001, 2005–2007, since 2011
Sepak takraw 1967–1969, since 1973
Shooting All
Softball 1981–1983, 1989, 2003–2005, 2011, since 2015
Soft tennis 2011
Squash 1991–2001, 2005–2007, since 2015
Table tennis All
Taekwondo Since 1985
Tennis 1959–2011, since 2015
Triathlon 2005–2007, since 2015
Volleyball 1959–1997, since 2001
Weightlifting 1959–1997, 2001–2013
Wrestling 1987, 1997, 2003–2013
Wushu 1991–1993, 1997, since 2001

Category 3: Other sports[1]

Sport Years
Arnis 1991, 2005
Bodybuilding 1987–1993, 1997, 2003–2007, 2013
Chess 2003–2005, 2011–2013
Dancesport 2005–2009
Fin swimming 2005, 2009–2011
Lawn bowls 1997, 2001, 2005–2007
Kenpō 2011–2012
Muay 2005–2009, 2013
Sport Years
Netball 2001, since 2005
Pétanque Since 2001
Pencak silat 1987–1989, 1993–1997, since 2001
Shuttle cock 2007–2009
Traditional boat race 1993, 1997–1999, since 2003
Vovinam 2011–2013
Water skiing 1987, 1997, 2011, since 2015

Uncategorized sports Note 1

Sport Years
Bridge 2011
Chinlone 2013
Futsal 2007, 2011–2013
Sport Years
Paragliding 2011
Roller sport 2011
Wall climbing 2011

^Note 1 Sports not listed under SEA Games Federation Charter and Rules

All-time medal table

With reference to the official data of the Olympic Council of Asia.[2]

No. Nation Games Gold Silver Bronze Total
1  Thailand (THA) 28 2089 1736 1736 5661
2  Indonesia (INA) 20 1714 1558 1580 4852
3  Malaysia (MAS)1 28 1104 1123 1526 3753
4  Philippines (PHI) 20 894 1041 1295 3230
5  Singapore (SIN) 28 828 881 1191 2900
6  Vietnam (VIE)4 21 771 730 829 2330
7  Myanmar (MYA)5 28 545 705 909 2159
8  Laos (LAO) 19 66 87 267 420
9  Cambodia (CAM)3 14 47 88 192 327
10  Brunei (BRU) 18 11 41 132 184
11  Timor-Leste (TLS) 5 3 5 18 26
  • 1 – Competed as Malaya in the inaugural games until 1961.
  • 2 – The Republic of Vietnam was dissolved in July 1976 when it merged with the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (North Vietnam) to become the Socialist Republic of Vietnam also known as Vietnam. Therefore, the medal counts for this country are considered to be as until 1975. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) is not using codes for South Vietnam any more after unifying with North Vietnam.
  • 3 – Competed as Cambodia, Kampuchea, and Khmer Republic.
  • 4 – In the 1989 edition, a unified Vietnam rejoined the games with new name and new flag. Medals made by South Vietnam are already combined here. See table tally above for South Vietnam.
  • 5 – Competed as Burma until 1987.

Host nations and cities

Since the Southeast Asian Games began in 1959, it has been held in 15 different cities across all Southeast Asian countries except Cambodia and Timor Leste.

Location of the Southeast Asian Games host
Games Year Host Nation Opened by Date Sports Events Nations Competitors Ref
Southeast Asian Peninsular Games
I 1959 Thailand Bangkok, Thailand King Bhumibol Adulyadej 12–17 December 12 N/A 6 518 [1]
II 1961 Myanmar Yangon, Burma President Win Maung 11–16 December 13 N/A 7 623 [2]
III 1963 Awarded to Cambodia, cancelled due to domestic political situation
III 1965 Malaysia Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia King Ismail Nasiruddin 14–21 December 14 N/A 6 963 [3]
IV 1967 Thailand Bangkok, Thailand King Bhumibol Adulyadej 9–6 December 16 N/A 6 984 [4]
V 1969 Myanmar Yangon, Burma President Ne Win 6–13 December 15 N/A 6 920 [5]
VI 1971 Malaysia Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia King Abdul Halim 6–13 December 15 N/A 7 957 [6]
VII 1973 Singapore Singapore President Benjamin Sheares 1–8 September 16 N/A 7 1632 [7]
VIII 1975 Thailand Bangkok, Thailand King Bhumibol Adulyadej 9–16 December 18 N/A 4 1142 [8]
Southeast Asian Games
IX 1977 Malaysia Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia King Yahya Petra 19–26 November 18 N/A 7 N/A [9]
X 1979 Indonesia Jakarta, Indonesia President Suharto 21–30 September 18 N/A 7 N/A [10]
XI 1981 Philippines Manila, Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos 6–15 December 18 N/A 7 ≈1800 [11]
XII 1983 Singapore Singapore President Devan Nair 28 May – 6 June 18 N/A 8 N/A [12]
XIII 1985 Thailand Bangkok, Thailand King Bhumibol Adulyadej 8–17 December 18 N/A 8 N/A [13]
XIV 1987 Indonesia Jakarta, Indonesia President Suharto 9–20 September 26 N/A 8 N/A [14]
XV 1989 Malaysia Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia King Azlan Shah 20–31 August 24 N/A 9 ≈2800 [15]
XVI 1991 Philippines Manila, Philippines President Corazon Aquino 24 November – 3 December 28 N/A 9 N/A [16]
XVII 1993 Singapore Singapore President Wee Kim Wee 12–20 June 29 N/A 9 ≈3000 [17]
XVIII 1995 Thailand Chiang Mai, Thailand Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn 9–17 December 28 N/A 10 3262 [18]
XIX 1997 Indonesia Jakarta, Indonesia President Suharto 11–19 October 36 490 10 5179 [19]
XX 1999 Brunei Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam King Hassanal Bolkiah 7–15 August 21 490 10 ≈5000 [20]
XXI 2001 Malaysia Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia King Salahuddin 8–17 September 32 490 10 4165 [21]
XXII 2003 Vietnam Hanoi & Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Prime Minister Phan Văn Khải 5–13 December 33 N/A 11 ≈5000 [22]
XXIII 2005 Philippines Manila, Philippines President Gloria Arroyo 27 November – 5 December 40 393 11 5336 [23]
XXIV 2007 Thailand Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand Crown Prince Vajiralongkorn 6–15 December 43 436 11 5282 [24]
XXV 2009 Laos Vientiane, Laos President Choummaly Sayasone 9–18 December 29 372 11 3100 [25]
XXVI 2011 Indonesia Jakarta & Palembang, Indonesia President SB Yudhoyono 11–22 November 44 545 11 ≈5000 [26]
XXVII 2013 Myanmar Naypyidaw, Myanmar Vice President Nyan Tun 11–22 December 37 460 11 4730 [27]
XXVIII 2015 Singapore Singapore President Tony Tan 5–16 June 36 402 11 4370 [28]
XXIX 2017 Malaysia Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia TBA 19–31 August Future event
XXX 2019 Philippines Manila, Philippines Future event
XXXI 2021 Vietnam Hanoi, Vietnam Future event
XXXII 2023 Cambodia Phnom Penh, Cambodia Future event
XXXIII 2025 Thailand TBA, Thailand Future event


The games is unique in that there are no official limits to the number of sports which may be contested, and the range may be decided by the organising host pending approval by the Southeast Asian Games Federation. Albeit for some core sports which must be featured, the host is also free to drop or introduce other sports.

This leeway has resulted in hosts maximising their medal hauls by dropping sports which are disadvantages to themselves relative to their peers, and the introduction of obscure sports, often at short notice, thus preventing most other nations from building up credible opponents. Some examples of these include:

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "South East Asian Games Federation: Charter and Rules" (PDF). SEAGF. 30 May 2010. Retrieved 30 December 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  2. "South East Asian Games Medal Count". Retrieved 30 December 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Sports. "VietNamNet - SEA Games or a village festival | SEA Games or a village festival". Retrieved 2 June 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. HS Manjunath (10 December 2013). "Cambodia eye record medal haul". The Phnom Penh Post. Retrieved 13 December 2013.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links