Saturday, December 15, 2007
Matheos Viktor Messakh, The Jakarta Post, Nakhon Ratchasima
With a budget of 100 million Thai baht (about US$3.2 million) the SEA Games Committee and Nakhon Ratchasima province have turned Suranaree University of Technology, the renowned university of Nakhon Ratchasima province, into the athletes' village for the two-week event.
The university has built new accommodations and renovated some of the school's dormitories for the Games.
Thailand began using the university complex for multi-sport events during the 1998 Asian Games when the main venues took place at Thammasat University complex, just outside the capital, Bangkok.
A total of 6,541 athletes from 11 countries at the biennial event stay in the village located about 20 kilometers from Nakhon Ratchasima (better known as Khorat). The village opened to the athletes Nov. 26 and will close Dec. 16.
Each room is fully furnished, air conditioned and furnished with a bed, television, closet and computer desk.
"In comparison to other facilities, they have a lot people helping, more than any other facility I've ever been to. They keep it very clean and I'm impressed. They give me good place to sleep, and also great food. They take care of us very well over there," said Filipino pole-vaulter Debra Samson, who won a silver medal at the Games.
Athletes can easily connect to the outside world as the village is equipped with telephone, mail and Internet facilities. Transportation is also arranged to and from the village throughout the tournament.
"Transportation is always available. We don't have to walk very much. They have bikes and shuttle buses in the village, and transportation from one venue to another is fast," Samson said.
Kroui Suan Dusit (Suan Dusit Kitchen) is tasked with providing food for the athletes. The company also provided services for the 1998 Asian Games and this year's World University Games.
The signature menu for Thai dishes includes tom yam (spicy sour soup), khao man kai (rice with chicken) and a wide variety of yums (Thai salads), winning over the hearts -- and stomachs -- of athletes.
"I've been to the SEA Games four times and only in Vietnam and here have we had an athletes' village. I feel this is better than Vietnam. The food is very good and there are lots of choices. Here we have halal food, while in Vietnam everything was mixed so we don't even knew what is halal and what is not," said hammer thrower gold medalist Siti Shahida Abdullah of Malaysia.
To add to the enjoyment of the athletes, the village has designated and "International Zone" and "Cultural Plaza" to exhibit performances from participating countries each night.
Thai actors and actresses have been invited to join the activities while athletes are also allowed to take part.
Since Princess Sirivannavari Nariratana of Thailand also stays in the village, stern security measures have been taken during the competition.
"I feel very safe, because they check everything. It's kind of annoying, but it makes me feel safe," said Samson.