Yesterday morning, I had a chance to talk to sports executives working in a multinational company which is a major sponsor in Sports Events in the country and even in Asia. It was a casual meeting and we had a brief conversation about running in the country, the Standard Charter’s Singapore Marathon and other running related activities.
Our conversation led to our present standing in the 25th SEA Games of which two of the executives openly told me that they just arrived from Vientiane, Laos to observe the preparation, opening ceremony, and initial conduct of the Games. I asked if it is true that our National Athletes arrived in two groups, in two separate “chartered” planes—one group of athletes was supported by POC and the other group of athletes was supported by PSC. POC is the Philippinje Olympic Committee which is headed by Jose “Peping” Cojuangco while the PSC is the Philippine Sports Commission which is headed by Harry Angping.
If you have been reading the Sports Pages of our national dailies for the past months, you would know that there is an animosity between these two sports institutions in the country. The PSC is a government entity which is responsible for our national sports excellence by providing the necessary funds to the Sports Federations and to our elite athletes; while the POC is the country’s representative organization of the International Olympic Committee (IOC) which is responsible in sending our National Athletes to International Games under the auspices of the IOC. SEA Games and ASIAN Games are the only International Games under the auspices of the IOC. In short, funding for training & incentives for medalists is the responsibilities of PSC; while the expenses for the travel of athletes to IOC’s International Games is the responsibility of the POC. I might be wrong but this is my impression about their arrangements when sending our National Athletes to such IOC meets/games.
Anyway, it is true that our athletes arrived in Laos in two separate “chartered” flights direct from Manila. My source of information could not determine if it is really true that one plane was boarded by PSC-supported athletes while the other plane was boarded by additional athletes recommended by POC and POC Officials. I also confirmed that there were no officials from the PSC who joined the delegation & party. However, by knowing that the delegation of our country nearly reached 400, there is a need for two planes to ferry our athletes and officials.
You might be wondering why our delegation was able to get a chartered flight from the Philippine Air Lines. It is because the release of the funds to buy for the tickets for our athletes and officials were delayed and in turn it would be expensive to buy them with few days before the scheduled departure. The other reason for the chartered flight is that, there is no direct flight from Manila to Laos and our delagation has to change plane from Bangkok/Saigon/Hongkong and this will entail additional expenses and more hours for the trip.
And now this is the worst part, the executives who were present during the 25th SEA Games Opening Ceremonies almost cried when they saw our Philippine Delegation marching at the Oval Track in “Athletic Attire” (Athletic Jacket; jogging pants & rubber shoes) while the other Country Delegations were wearing Suits & Leather Shoes. I was told that the Vietnam delegation wore a Barong Tagalog- look alike with “crumpled” look (“Gusot Mayaman Barong”). And the best part among the worst news is that, the uniform that our delegation wore during the Opening Ceremony was given on the day before the delegation left Manila. (Note: If you want to see a picture of our delegation during the Opening Ceremony, browse at www.laoseagames2009.com and click at the Photo Gallery on the left side of the site. Look for picture #38 and click it).
I am not making a post showing a “crab mentality” attitude in our sports excellence program but I am trying to show the prevailing situation in our sports, moreso, with the “message” we are showing to our neighboring countries and to our people. We always talk and read about “unity in purpose” and “unity among us” but for us, as a nation competitng with other nations in an international sports meet, we should show our best.
The good news is that Ed “Vertek” Buenavista and Jo-An Banayag won the Gold Medals in the Men’s & Ladies’ Marathon Race in this morning’s 25th SEA Games Athletics events. Their finish times at 2:21+ and 2:46+ hours, respectively are good enough to win the gold medal with a cash incentive of P 300,000 each, but it is still far from the ASIAN and OLYMPIC Games’ standards. Nevertheless, what is important is that we got the GOLD in the most important running event for us who are long distance runners!
Whatever will be the final results of the 25th SEA Games, I hope there will be no “finger pointing” as to who should be blamed for our dismal performance and lowest output in the history of the SEA Games. However, I am still sure of the following assessment: (1) that “politics” and “sports” do not mix, and (2) for the government and the private sector to help in the funding and support to our athletes.
Let us see what will happen to our National Team in the next ASIAN Games which will be held in 2010, next year!