Deputy PM worried about welfare of SEA Games athletes

Posted by samakomlao Monday, May 4, 2009

Standing Deputy Prime Minister Somsavat Lengsavad ordered all 25 sports federations to consider the welfare of Lao athletes as they prepare for the 25th SEA Games.

After visiting a number of training centres and talking to athletes, Mr Somsavat gathered 25th SEA Games committees and federation officials last Friday to discuss the problems the athletes had raised.

“All federations should pay more attention to the needs of their athletes. I went to see how they are faring at each training centre and they told me about their problems, with some requesting assistance,” Mr Somsavat said at the latest SEA Games meeting.

The first issue brought to his attention was medical care. Most of the training centres need doctors and physiotherapists to carry out regular health checks. Canteen facilities were also considered to be inadequate.

“Medical care and better food were two of their main concerns. The health of athletes is very important because they train hard and need nutritious food to give them energy. The food and health sectors should work together to provide this,” he said.

Mr Somsavat said if these problems could be resolved it will help encourage athletes to train and compete to the best of their abilities.

“We should attend to their needs and take care of them very well,” he said.

Some athletes at the SEA Games sports training centre in Sikeud village, Naxaithong district, Vientiane , complained their schools and universities were pressuring them over repeated absences.

“If athletes don't attend classes for three days they are penalised. This has a strong, direct impact on them. The sectors involved should verify whether schools or universities are following the Prime Minister's Order on this matter,” he said.

With so many students competing in the games on behalf of Laos , why couldn't the nation help them with their studies? he asked.

Mr Somsavat cited the example of a goalkeeper in the national women's football team who works in a timber factory in Xaysettha district, Vientiane . She told him if she was absent from work for three days she would be fined by her employer.

“I've heard that she is a good goalkeeper. Her hands are stickier than sticky rice!

“I would like to know if the Lao Football Federation has discussed the matter with her employer or not. All federations should take care of their athletes because it's very important,” he said.

Some athletes training abroad also worry about their school and work commitments. Their families call them with news that their employer or school has been looking for them.

Mr Somsavat instructed federation officials to address these problems through direct discussions with schools and employers.

“Negotiate with them and then take signed papers to athletes' families to confirm the school or employer has given permission for them to be absent. Then athletes and their families will have confidence and won't have to worry about this situation,” he said.

He stressed sports federations should follow up on these matters and said all problems should be solved before the next SEA Games meeting, scheduled for May 9.

He informed the public and the federations that the Prime Minister was closely monitoring progress on issues concerning athletes' welfare.

“All the problems regarding SEA Games preparations are reported to Prime Minister Bouasone Bouphavanh. He has advised me to make enquiries and help the committees solve these problems, especially the concerns of athletes,” he said.

By Souknilundon Southivongnorath

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