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PH withdraws SEAG hosting

President Rodrigo Duterte’s men should have learned a lesson or two from the late Chef Executive Corry Aquino on diplomacy, honoring international commitments and respecting the Filipinos’ capability to succeed in any undertakings with their hands tied.

Just a few days ago, the government withdrew its support for the country’s hosting of the 30th edition of the Southeast Asian Games supposed to be held here two years from now.

Philippine Sports Commission chair William “Butch” Ramirez who announced the withdrawal cited the problems of terrorism and atrocities brought about by the current situation in Mindanao.

The PSC chair added that the funding that will be incurred in the hosting could be directed instead for the rehabilitation of Muslim City of Marawi, the hardest hit by the on-going war between the government forces and the ISI-inspired rebel troops.

This situation could very well serve as a reminder of a similar occurrence in 1991 when then President Cory defied the advice of her men and despite tremendous odds led the country in successfully staging the 16th edition of the biennial conclave among the best and the finest athletes in the region.

A killer quake hit most part of Luzon July of 1990. Mt. Pinatubo erupted in June of 1991 and flash floods inundated Leyte tow months before the Games were to commence. It looked like the Games were, indeed, doomed.

Tita Cory though showed she’s made up of tougher stuff. Displaying an immense national courage the President’s men lacked, she strongly insisted on honoring the commitment to the then eight-nation aggrupation.

Infrastructure requirements, which two weeks before remained unfinished, were completed. Competition equipment arrived on the eve of the opening ceremonies.

As in 1981 when the country first played host the Games, The Philippines met the deadlines in scrambling fashion, dressed up their premier city and the Filipinos flashed the smile that made them one of the most loved people in the world.

The Manila SEA Games of 1991, which up to the present time has been aptly known the “Miracle of ‘91” went on and when it was over, the Philippines emerged as the biggest winner.

The Filipino athletes won 91 gold medals, one shy of the Indonesians’ 92 for second overall, the country’s finest showing since 1977 surpassed by their 2005 overall champion counterparts, but who cares? Being able to stage the Games on schedule was, in itself, a “miracle.”

Amidst the calamities and political cataclysms which the country suffered then, the 1991 SEA Games showed the Filipinos resiliency to rise from the grave.

Fear that member countries would be hesitant to brave the inconveniencies and discomforts brought about by those calamities were erased by the National Olympic Committees of Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Myanmar, Brunei and Laos themselves by sending a record 3,700 of their best athletes to the 13-day sportsfest.

Tita Cory herself silenced those opposing to pursue hosting the meet by saying:  “There are those who say that sports competitions are like  battles, extensions of the struggle for nationalism. Each competition must be fought as one fights a war.”

“But if we trace the roots of these competitions to ancient times, we find that even the fiercest battles between Athens and Rome were suspended when the Olympics began. Differences were set aside,” she stressed.

Then Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose Sering, for his part, said: “Criticisms have been hurled at hosting these Games considering the natural calamities and disasters our country has suffered. Little did these critics realize, however, that a greater calamity can befall our country or the nations in this region , or the world, if we neglect and abandon our youths who, through sports, we hope to develop into better citizens of their respective countries.”

“The celebration of the SEA Games will have benefits far outweighing the cost to host it,” the late POC head said.

How the duo would have probably wished the present-day sports leaders were listening when they uttered those words of wisdom.

By: EDDIE G. ALINEA