by Ding Marcelo
The Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) should just stop whining. It can’t seem to let go of the government’s decision to drop the hosting of the Southeast Asian Games in 2019. Peping Cojuangco still wants those games here, badly.
Yet the POC, where he is president, has said nothing convincing to upend the government on this one. It hasn’t laid out the merits of hosting the games. Its chief argument has been that, dropping a commitment — which Peping made on his own, by the way — would make the country lose face with its neighbors, and that would make it an embarrassment for all Filipinos.
If you ask me, what is embarrassing is the Philippines placing 7th among 11 countries in the SEA Games overall medal race. That was in 2013. In 2015, it was sixth overall but won fewer gold medals than in 2013. Neither did it fare better at the Asian Games where, in 2016, the country won just one gold medal.
That is not the country losing face, that is the country getting a slap in the face. Yet the POC has never addressed this kind of face disfigurement with the zeal and determination it now exhibits in pushing to host the Games.
I don’t think any of the SEAG countries told Brunei that it would embarrass its king when that very rich country announced last year it was no longer honoring its commitment to host the Games. And nobody remembers Laos being excoriated by any of the ten other member nations when that very poor country backed out years ago from hosting the Games.
Our own POC, meantime, seems to think nothing of the scenario that could play out on Philippine soil by 2019. With (possibly) the terrorist problem still unchecked by then, with (clearly) the longest-running armed communist party in Asia now ousted from peace talks, and with (clearly) thousands of foreigners converging in the country for the event, can the 2019 Southeast Asian Games be secured?
I always wondered what it is in the hosting of the SEA Games that could animate an official like Jose Cojuangco Jr. into being this determined. If his newfound energy and resolve could only have been channeled into helping the country improve its standing in the international sports arena all these 12 years that he has been at the helm.
But, no, our country has been the worst in sports among comparable nations in Southeast Asia. In medal standings in the SEAG, Asian Games, and Olympics, we are behind Thailand, Indonesia, Vietnam, Singapore, and Malaysia, barely ahead of Myanmar, with Laos and Cambodia fast catching up.
In pushing to host the 2019 games, Peping has actually peddled the idea he can get the private sector to fund the whole enterprise, which, according to estimates, can go up to one billion pesos.
The man is probably still in the moment when his person and influence carried real weight. That was when Corazon Cojuangco Aquino was President, he was Speaker of the House, and some of Cory’s moon dust continued to fall on him. Or, maybe, he thinks PNoy is still president?
So, he’s probably still thinking he can twist the arms of businessmen Ramon Ang and Manny Pangilinan, among others, into coughing up millions to support the games that have the word “doomed” written all over it.
But if he were such a close buddy to private individuals with the megabucks, why hasn’t he gotten their support for struggling sports associations — such as bowling, where he was a former long-time president, or equestrian, where he is now president? (Come to think of it, the latter has not had any event or competition of consequence in many years.)
Meanwhile, corporate support — for tennis, golf, boxing, and even basketball — was achieved, not at all because Cojuangco intervened, but because there were businessmen who, on their own, dug deep into their pockets for the love of the sport.
Well, maybe government should call Cojuangco’s bluff, and let him go around asking for a billion pesos from the private sector. If he can name just one person or one corporation that has agreed to commit serious millions to the SEA Games, then it could probably be game on for Cojuangco.
Sports are great. (I am not a sports fan for nothing.) I know they galvanize citizens and ignite national pride. Manny Pacquiao doing well does that. Performing creditably in next month’s SEA Games in Malaysia will do that. But spending millions just so Cojuangco — who, let it be said again, committed the country into hosting the games without consulting anyone in government — does not have to eat his words, will not.
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