‘Moneyed to the teeth’

SEA Games
With a more than 1 billion in war chest, Filipino athletes are expected to end up as No. 1 again in the 30th edition of the SEA Games.

Winning the overall championship won’t come cheap for Team Philippines.

Sports officials don’t deny the fact that they want no less than the overall championship when the country hosts the 30th Southeast Asian Games in December, something which is at the back of their minds since Day One of the SEAG buildup.

That’s why the Philippine Sports Commission—the government’s agency looking after the welfare of athletes—has allotted a total of P1.2 billion to finance the needs of Filipino bidders in the 12-day sporting showpiece.

That amount earmarked for the athletes will easily go down as the biggest ever in the history of Philippine sports.

“I look at it that if we take good care of our athletes, we might be able to deliver a miracle in the SEA Games,” PSC chairman Butch Ramirez told sportswriters during a press conference a few days ago.

“Para sa akin, hindi imposible na mag-champion  kasi host tayo. Besides, malaki itong budget na inaasikaso natin,” added Ramirez, who is also the team’s chef de mission in the sportsfest kicking off on Nov. 30 and ending on Dec. 11.

The last time the country hosted this biennial meet in 2005, Team Philippines emerged the overall champion with Ramirez also serving as the chef the mission.

According to Ramirez, the P1.2 billion will be split into two, with P600 million going to the participation of
athletes seeing action in 57 sports and the rest for the various overseas training ahead of the meet.

“This is the first time the PSC is spending that much just for the athletes. So we expect a good result, possibly the overall title,” Ramirez said.

That amount , according to him, is apart from the additional P600 million budget to be used for the purchase of equipment for the national athletes.

Observers said the athletes never had it so good in terms of financial aid, so it’s  right and just to expect  them to finish on top of the gold medal table.

“Sa laki ng pera na gagastusin, talagang aasa is Juan dela Cruz na mag- overall champion tayo,” said Daniel Aguila, an avid sports fan from Fairview.

“A second or third overall finish will be considered a debacle. Yun ang dapat nilang isipin,” added Aguila, looking confident that our athletes will end up as No. 1 again like in 2005.

“Our athletes are not only armed to the teeth, they’re also moneyed to the teeth,” he added, smiling.

The addition of several events mistaken by many to a food or a city, like sambo, kurash or netball, will also greatly help Team PH’s drive to capture the overall championship.

It’s easy to understand why sports officials really want the overall title like crazy. For one, they want to show that the huge amount to be spent will be justified with an overall title. For another, the country has long suffered in shame languishing near the cellar of this inferior sports undertaking.

“There must be an ROI (return of investment), malaki young ginastos ng gobyerno,” Ramirez told sportswriters.

“Hindi totoo yan na pupunta ng SEA Games na okay lang ang 3rd or 4th place overall. Eh bakit pa tayo gagastos ng P6 billion kung hindi tayo magcha-champion,” he added.

This marks the fourth time the country will play host in this 11-nation meet, a chance  which it almost passed up because of the Marawi siege almost two years ago.

The PSC had announced it was begging off given the severity of the conditions in that Mindanao city, but a number of President Duterte allies who love sports persuaded the government to make a change of heart.

The country first hosted this event in 1981,or six years after it debuted in 1975 in Bangkok, the birthplace of the meet then known as South East Asian Peninsula Games in 1958.

So the 30th edition of the biennial event is here, with the country ready to roll out the welcome mat to about 10,000 athletes and officials from 11 other countries competing in 530 events in 57 sports.

Ramirez said that despite the problems that hindered the preparations, like the sudden resignation of Ricky Vargas as POC president and questions on who would take the lead in the SEA Games buildup, the meet will go on as scheduled.

And to show that all is well now among the PSC, Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee, Inc. (Phisgoc), officials of these three groups gathered  recently in front of the media, signed an agreement and posed for photographers smiling.

“It’s always beautiful and positive to think of a strong collective  among people, and whatever transpired in the past is now part of the journey,” said Ramirez.

Ramirez represented the PSC in the tripartite signing, newly-elected POC president Bambol Tolentino signed for the Olympic body, and Tats Suzara for the Phisgoc.

Under the agreement, the PSC will provide financial support pursuant to the General Appropriations Act of 2019 to the Phisgoc; the POC will organize and form Team Philippine for SEAG participation and Phisgoc is primarily responsible for the actual preparations, organization, and execution of the SEA Games hosting.