Myanmar annoys rivals with SEA Games picks

National badminton player Fu Mingtian in action against Thailand's Intanon Ratchanok during their badminton women's singles semi-final match at the South-east Asian (SEA) Games in Indonesia on 18 November 2011.

YANGON - Myanmar said Tuesday that it was excluding tennis and gymnastics from this year's Southeast Asian Games, prompting accusations by rivals of cherry-picking events to help home athletes.

The 2013 SEA Games will be the first major international event to be held in Myanmar since the end of junta rule almost two years ago.

But the row over the events list has angered regional neighbours who say Olympic disciplines should take precedence over local events such as chinlone, a dance-like sport, and bodybuilding - at which the hosts excel.

"There were many requests to add and remove (sports). After discussion, we removed some and also added some," sports ministry official Htay Aung told AFP, saying hockey, table-tennis and badminton were all re-instated after talks Tuesday between officials from the 11 competing countries in Naypyidaw.

"We also should not include some sports which our country cannot win," he added, apparently confirming suspicions Myanmar had selected some disciplines purely to boost its medal tally.

"Tennis is an Olympic sport which should be in the Games but Myanmar said they don't have courts (for it)," said Chaiyapak Siriwat, vice president of the National Olympic Committee of Thailand.

"Personally, I think they don't have tennis athletes," he said, adding Thailand had lobbied for badminton, tennis, gymnastics and table tennis to be on the schedule.

Host nations are routinely accused of skewing the line-up of disciplines to favour their athletes as they eye medals table glory.

Sports such as pencak silat, Vietnamese martial art vovinam and sepak takraw, a cross between football and volleyball, are among the disciplines unfamiliar outside the region that join the regular athletics line-up.

Critics frequently decry their inclusion for diluting the quality of the events and handing host nations medals in their niche sports.

The hosts normally top the SEA Games medals tally.

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