Hoang Vinh Giang, general secretary of the Vietnam Olympic Committee, said this was not aimed merely at winning medals but also to integrate with the Southeast Asian region.
The International Olympic Committee had only admitted 28 new Olympic sports in more than a century though there are hundreds of sports around the world.
Thus the SEA Games was an arena for playing and exchanging local sports which provided spiritual sustenance for the region’s 600 million inhabitants, he said.
Without the SEA Games, Vietnam’s martial art, Vovinam, may not have had a forum, he pointed out.
Since the region remained far behind the world in many sports, Vietnam and other regional nations should compete in their own backyard first to catch with the rest of the world, he said.
At the Olympics, Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, and other regional nations had so far won no more than a combined 20 gold medals, while Japan bagged 16 golds at just the 2004 games in Athens.
The Vietnamese government had given a nod to bid for the 2019 Asiad, he said, adding US$300 million would be spent to upgrade sports facilities if the nation won the right to host it.
Vietnam has ranked in the top three on medal tally at recent SEA Games.