WHILE the economic hubs of Clark and Subic will serve as the main venues for the 30th Southeast Asian Games starting 30 November, Metro Manila will have a fair share of the hosting chores.
But the historic Rizal Memorial Coliseum, site of many grand sporting battles in the past, will be restored to its old, majestic glory that will treat participants from the 11 SEA Games countries to a feel of the old Philippines but with all the amenities that the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) is introducing to the site for the first time.
Fund infusion from the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) is making this possible, said PSC Chairman William “Butch” Ramirez, who is also the Chief of Mission of Team Philippines in the SEA Games.
“All government agencies are on the same track to making the SEA Games a successful hosting as directed by President Rodrigo Duterte,” Ramirez said. “The PSC is making sure our guests and the athletes will see the best side of the Philippines when they start to visit our venues. We have the various agencies providing us with support, from the Military and the Police, to the Department of Tourism (DoT), Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), Bases Conversion Development Authority (BCDA), the whole of the president’s Cabinet through Executive Sec. Salvador Medialdea, almost all government offices with stake in the project are being utilized by the President.”
No major repairs have been done to the three major government-owned venues since the country last hosted the SEA Games in 2005, when the Filipino athletes won the overall championship for the first and last time.
“The recent tripartite agreement among the officials of the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC), Philippine Sea Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc) and the PSC also moved forward the preparations,” Ramirez said. “POC President (Abraham) Bambol Tolentino has also galvanized all national sports associations (NSA) into one direction.”
The Pagcor, through Chairperson Andrea Domingo, was among the first to provide support to the Games by helping fund the refurbishing of the Philsports Arena in Pasig, and the Rizal Memorial and Ninoy Aquino Stadia in Manila, according to Ramirez.
Ramirez, however, said the Rizal Memorial Stadium will not just undergo repairs. He disclosed that the venue built in 1934 and has hosted the Asian Games in 1954 and the SEA Games on three occassions, will be restored to its original look.
“The PSC was mandated by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) to preserve the Rizal Memorial Coliseum to its original form. And we are happy with that because this will be the first time that the Filipinos and our foreign guests will see the venue like it was in the 1930s.”
But the coliseum will now be fitted with new seats to follow international standards. It will also become fully air-conditioned for the first time in its long history.
“The canopy will be removed,” according to Ramirez. “It turned out that it was not there when it hosted the Asian Games before. The color will be the same as it was during the golden era of Art Deco construction that was the design of its architect Juan M. Arellano.”
The venue will also be fitted with a new flooring. The PSC, Ramirez said, is now receiving inquiries from the country’s top collegiate leagues for their schedules next year.
“We are looking at the long term. We do not want these government-owned venues to become idle after the SEA Games. We are confident of bringing back the collegiate leagues to where they used to play before the new private coliseums attracted them out of our venues,” Ramirez said.
Refurbishing of the Rizal football field will also start next month. New seats will also be installed at the grandstand as required by the International Football Federation (FIFA).
Badminton, speed and figure skating, bowling, billiards, taekwondo, weightlifting, men’s football, squash, tennis and soft tennis, gymnastics, kickboxing, boxing, basketball, ice hockey, fencing, karatedo, wushu, indoor volleyball, cycling 3x3 basketball and Esports will be held in different venues in Manila, Makati, Mandaluyong, Pasay, Pasig, Quezon City and San Juan.