THEY were given everything they wanted as far as training is concerned, to the point of being called the most pampered Philippine contingent ever assembled.
With more than P1 billion spent on their training overseas and exposure in international competitions, the Filipino athletes found themselves staring at the giant but doable task of winning the overall championship in their home turf for only the second time in the long history of the Southeast Asian Games.
Two days before the 12-day meet among 11 nations kicks off in elaborate rites at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan, Team PH was told for the nth time to go for No. 1 and make the nation proud once more.
The latest call for the local athletes, numbering 1,115 and seeing action in 56 sports in the calendar, to win the overall title came from no less than Philippine Sports Commission chair and chef de mission Butch Ramirez.
“Go for the golds as if your life depended on them and an entire nation will be grateful,” said Ramirez. “Let’s bring good news to everyone. We need it, all Filipinos need it”.
Like other high-ranking local sports officials, Ramirez is expecting Team PH to strike heavily in combat sports, especially in arnis where the host team has promised to capture an eye-popping total of 15 golds.
The sports of judo, kickboxing, jiu-jitsu, sambo, wrestling and boxing are also highly-anticipated to deliver and provide the much-needed wins as Team PH goes for its second overall victory after a triumphant campaign in 2005 when we last hosted the biennial sporting showpiece.
In other developments:
—Weather system ‘Tisoy’ strengthened into a typhoon yesterday, threatening to bring heavy rains over large swaths of the country, including several venues of the SEA Games over the next two days.
—Malacañang has called on the organizers to let students watch the proceedings for free, a day after a former PH chef de mission had appealed to President Duterte to heed the request.
—Philippine Sea Games Organizing Committee chairman and House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano said funds are flowing into an alleged smear campaign against the country’s hosting of the Games.
—A journalist group on Wednesday hit back at officials who criticized the media for reporting the slew of snags that hit the headlines in the days leading to the Games’ opening tomorrow.
—Officials of the Whitewoods Convention and Leisure Hotel have belied allegations that they served ‘kikiam’, saying the athletes mistook chicken sausage as a non-halal Filipino street food after hotel staff tried to tweak the processed meat with spices.
10 GOLDS IN DANCESPORT?
It’s not only in combat sports where the Filipinos are fancied to do well.
In dancesport, Ramirez and his aides see a 10-gold medal haul, while projecting Team PH is good for five wins each in athletics and gymnastics, where the local side will be bannered by Asian long jump champion EJ Obiena and newly-crowned world gymnastics champion Carlos Yulo, respectively.
According to them, Yulo is good for four gold medals.
The government agency tasked to oversee amateur sports has spent more than P 1 billion on the athletes’ international training and exposure, equipment, foreign coaches, education and nutrition and it expects a return of investment in the form of an overall crown.
“The government has been very supportive of our national athletes. And it’s high time that such support gets the results expected from them. We expect nothing less than 100 percent from them,” Ramirez said.
There are 530 golds that will go up for grabs in 56 sports, scattered in 44 venues across Metro Manila and Southern Luzon, Subic and New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac, the main hub of the meet which PH is hosting for the fourth time.
As of yesterday, the typhoon was 21,430 kilometers east of Visayas, packing 150 kilometer per hour gusts and maximum sustained winds of 120 kph up from 110 kph, according to PAGASA.
“The storm will pass through areas where the events of the SEA Games will be held,” said weather specialist Raymond Ordinario.
According to Cayetano, “four or five” websites are continuously publishing “fake news” on the regional event.
“Ilan sa media umamin sa amin na may umaagos na pera na siraan ang SEA Games,” Cayetano told reporters at Club Filipino in San Juan.
“They want to perpetuate the lie. Is the hosting perfect? No. But is it good? It’s very good,” he added.
According to WCLH officials, organizers inspected the processed meat before it was cooked and served to the athletes and officials.
“It basically is just a chicken hotdogs,” SEA Games executive chef Bruce Lim said when reporters asked him to confirm what the hotel had claimed.
“The hotel wanted to liven it up so what they did was sauté it with soy sauce and different spices so it looked like ‘kikiam’, but it really wasn’t,” he told reporters.
It was Philippine women’s football coach Let Dimzon who claimed that members of the “Malditas”, the team’s monicker, were served with ‘kikiam’.
The National Union of Journalists of the Philippines hit back at Phisgoc chief operating officer Ramon Suzara for slamming the media for its supposed negative reporting while asking journalists to publish instead positive reports about the SEAG.
“The press duty has always been to report things as they are, based on verifiable facts, and not to pander to anyone’s perception of what is, or should be,” the NUJP said.
It becomes ridiculously unacceptable when the officials responsible for the disaster resort to bashing media as well, as if the reports on their shortcomings were to blame for the disaster,” it said in a statement.