KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – As the 2017 Southeast Asian Games wind down, the region now looks to the Philippines once more as it prepares to host again in 2019 for the first time since 2005.
In the next two years, Philippine sports will be put under a microscope as it bids to finally recover from underperforming at the editions since it hosted.
Foreign Affairs Secretary and SEA Games Organizing Committee Chairman Alan Peter Cayetano is hoping the country’s sports officials, regardless of any differences, would rally behind one common denominator: a passion for Philippine sports.
“For the longest time they said politics marred Philippine sports but ang nakakalimutan nila (what people are forgetting) is it’s the passion of each and every one who loves Philippine sports,” Cayetano told reporters after he watched then consoled the Philippine women’s volleyball team in a semifinals loss to Thailand at the Malaysia International Trade and Exhibition Centre here.
“You might not like this guy, you might not like this woman, you might not like this elderly guy, but you can’t take it away that all of these people contributed to sports and love sports. So it’s time that people managing sports act like a team.”
The Philippines is finally set on hosting the 2019 SEA Games after it initially pulled out, citing the Marawi City crisis.
Cayetano, who also came here to support Gilas Pilipinas during its gold medal match against Indonesia, said they are eyeing New Clark City, Bulacan, and Zambales as venues for the Games.
“We don’t wanna unveil the plans yet, but it looks good. If we had 3 or 4 years it would have been much better,” he told reporters.
“But we’re confident that if people come to the new Clark City, they’ll see the new Philippines. But we’ll also be using at least Bulacan and Zambales, but maybe more.”
Cayetano hopes to enlist the “all out support” of “all sectors of society” including the Department of Education, the Commission on Higher Education, local government units, and the private sector.
The intention is for the next two years and the hosting to breathe life into Philippine sports programs – from the grassroots and education level upwards – so it could springboard all the way to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics and far beyond that.
“We want to use the 2019 and the Olympics in 2020 to signal a new age of support and importance of sports in the Philippines,” he said.
The Philippines’ campaign this year has floundered with only two more days of competition left. The target was to get 50 gold medals, but the country is still at 23 golds as of this writing – still 6 behind the 29-gold finish in 2015 and 2013, and obviously way far off the goal of 50.
The country’s gold medal haul also significantly decreased every SEA Games since 2005.
“This is an attempt. An attempt to build on what our sports men and women put together. Hosting brings out the best in us,” Cayetano said.
“Hopefully these two years won’t be just preparing the venue, preparing the country, but will also be preparing our athletes. Then by the next year, 2020, Olympics.” – Rappler.com