CEBU CITY, Philippines – The biggest sporting spectacle of the year is just five days away from its opening day. I am referring to the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) that will unfold at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan this Saturday, and will run until Dec. 11. 2019.
It promised a grand and the first-ever indoor opening rites with a lot of surprises and world-class entertainers and talents performing before live audience and telecast for the millions of people in the Philippines and our neighbors in Southeast Asia.
While the sports community is thrilled and hoping for a successful event, some quarters are sadly praying for its failure, even if it has not started yet.
I myself am not in favor of this hosting at first, when it was announced in 2015. Philippines’ turn to host these biennial games is in 2025 yet, but the previous POC made strong efforts to replace of Brunei Darussalam, who declined to host this year’s event, four years ago.
There were too many hullabaloos before President Duterte gave his final verdict to go on with the hosting preparations of the 30th edition of the SEA Games.
Problems did not stop there, as there was an issue of leadership with Ricky Vargas stepping down as POC president that leads to the election of Bambol Tolentino as the new POC president, PSC Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez replacing Monsour del Rosario as the Chef de Mission, budget bloating, still ongoing renovations of facilities, the bombshells dropped by Sen. Drilon on the cost of the cauldron and the cost of construction of the main hub, the New Clark City and the latest, failure of the host to provide transportation and timely accommodation to the football teams of Cambodia and Timor Leste.
All of these are all legitimate concerns, but these issues are typical for this magnitude event. Naysayers and opposition made these issues bigger than its proportion for opportunities to hog the limelight. But for the people who truly understand the situation – hosting SEA Games is an achievement that we can be proud of. Spending P11 Billion for the construction of NCC including the P55M cauldron is worth it. All of these are part of labor pains for this endeavor.
Many also doubted the renovations of the Rizal Memorial Complex would be completed on time. But PSC Commissioner Ramon Fernandez posted on his Facebook wall last night, photos of the newly renovated Rizal Memorial Coliseum – the venue of Gymnastics, the Rizal Memorial Stadium which is the venue of Football, the Tennis Center also at RMC and the Skatepark in Tagaytay.
It takes a SEA Games to make us realize that we need to build this kind of facilities for our athletes. While Sen. Drillon made fuzz on the cost of the cauldron which he think could be put to a better use if spent to build classrooms, he might have overlooked that SEA Games only comes every two years, and it is not that often that Philippines could host the event.
This is only the fourth time that we host the biennial games, in 1981, 1991, 2005 and this year. There will be a total of 529 events in 56 sports to be played in 11 days. Twenty-three (23) cities and municipalities will play host to nearly 10,000 athletes from 11 countries. So just imagine the returns that our local business and tourism industries and its stakeholders could earn from the bustling economic activities correlating to the SEA Games events.
In fact, sports money is not meant for construction of classrooms. DEPED has the biggest share of the Annual Budget. From the P553 Billion budget, I am sure a huge chunk from it is intended for the construction of new school buildings and classrooms. He also forgot that PSC only had P350M budget to be used for athletes training, monthly stipends for national teams and grassroots programs. Thankfully, Speaker Peter Alan Cayetano supplemented P500M additional funding so that PSC can send our athletes to training abroad.
My main point is, we need to host this event because there is a need to upgrade our facilities. And the fastest way to upgrade our facilities is to host an international competition so that the government will have the basis to spend to build a stadium and renovate old facilities. With the New Clark City Stadium and the renovated Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, we can now bid to host the Asian Games and other international competitions. But what is most important is that our athletes will now enjoy a modern training facility.
I am optimistic that our country can pull an ace on this challenge! And I enjoined every Filipino, regardless of the colour, ideology or religion, instead of throwing rocks and bricks to the organizers or to the administration, or on how PHILSGOC handled its affairs regarding foods, transportation or accommodation of foreign teams, we should be united in looking for solutions for the sake of our athletes.
This hosting realized a long overdue dream – a training facility away from the hustle and bustle of the city. New facilities and pieces of equipment for our athletes’ training. A new beginning for Philippine Sports.
A friend told me that in Los Angeles, California alone, there are at least 10 Filipino groups in existence. Each tried to pull down the other, each seeking to become the most popular or the widely recognized group. Destroying the other for the glory of the other. Very diverse, as diverse as our culture and traditions! That is what is happening at this very moment.
Why can’t we give this hosting a chance and stand united for our athletes and our country.
Christian and I will be covering the 30th SEA Games. Stay tuned for the latest updates of the events.