Vietnam's sports officials have a knack of seeking free rides at intn’l events. They seem at it again.

By VnExpress   July 7, 2017 | 11:43 am GMT+7
Vietnam's sports officials have a knack of seeking free rides at intn’l events. They seem at it again.
The Vietnamese sports delegation in the opening ceremony of the 2016 Rio Olympics. Photo by Reuters

10 delegation's deputy heads have been picked to attend a regional sporting event, way beyond the threshold of 2, raising public eyebrows.

Vietnam is planning to take its largest ever team to the Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur this August, with a delegation of 693 initially scheduled to go.

While the inclusion of athletes, coaches, heads of sport and doctors are a matter of course, media reports have questioned why 10 deputy heads of sport have been selected for the trip.

The SEA Games allocates two slots for the position, raising suspicions that the extra eight might just be tagging along for a free holiday.

At a press briefing on Wednesday, Nguyen Thai Binh, a spokesman for the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, defended the plan.

Binh said the team had 123 more members than the previous Games, including 84 extra athletes, so managing the delegation would be “complicated".

He denied the rumors that some officials are capitalizing on the regional competition for a free vacation.

“This is all about work and responsibility, there are no personal benefits here,” he said, as cited by Dan Tri newspaper.

However, the noisy criticism has prompted Sports Minister Nguyen Ngoc Thien to step in. He issued a statement on Thursday ordering the sports department to reduce the number of deputy heads to two.

It’s not the first time the ministry has been questioned about officials’ attendance at overseas sporting events.

When the country’s Olympic delegation returned from Rio last August, it was met with cheers for Vietnam's first gold medal, won by shooter Hoang Xuan Vinh, but boos for 10 sports officials who were part of the 50-member team.

The officials came under fire because some of the 23 athletes were sent to the world’s biggest sporting event without their coaches, and there were only three team doctors.

Back then Vietnamese sports officials bridled at the criticism, saying those officials tagged along to "learn from the event."

“Saying [the officials] went to Brazil on a leisure trip is wrong," Vuong Bich Thang, general director of Vietnam’s General Department of Sports, said at that time. "Attending the Olympics is a tough job. They have to work very hard and be on their feet constantly.”