The eternal flame of ambition

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    THE last athlete has left, the last cheer has died away, and the flame from the cauldron has been extinguished.

    It’s time to move on.

    I can imagine the newspapers in the other ASEAN countries painting the results of their participation in the 30th Southeast Asian Games almost in the same way as did the Bangkok Post yesterday – focusing on which of their athletes did well, which need to do much better in the next staging, and explaining why it is not surprising that the Philippines rolled away with the overall championship. Apparently, that is the tradition in the Games: nine times out of ten the host nation wins the overall championship in part because it is allowed to add sports to the games that are, well, its favorites.

    There were 50+ sports at our Games. Some of them were added by the Philippines as host and these included arnis where we won 14 of the 20 gold medals available; dancesport where we took 10 of the 13 available, and even skateboarding (6 out of 8) and table e sports (3 out of 6). That’s 33 gold medals there. We also won gold in 3×3 basketball, and if I had my way I would have added spider fights and trumpo, but thankfully I had not been given any role at all.

    Then again as the Post pointed out, more accurately, eight of the last 12 host countries emerged with the most gold medals in the meet, including the following: Thailand with 157 gold medals in Chiang Mai in 1995; Indonesia with 194 gold medals in Jakarta in 1997; Vietnam with 158 golds in the Hanoi games in 2003; Indonesia again with 183 golds in 2007, and Malaysia with 144 golds in 2017.

    So the host winning the most is part of the tradition. The challenge to the athletes of every country is to break that tradition. But one way to do that is to stop the practice of adding homegrown games. Let’s stick, for example, to the 33 or so sports in the Olympics. Then we will really see who is the best of the best.

    Be that as it may there is so much to be proud of in the performance of our athletes. We now need to help them be consistent by being consistent in our support as well.

    But now that the Games are over the flame is out and Christmas is upon us expect sports to become a back burner issue once more until 2021 comes around and we begin last minute preparations for the 31st Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam.

    Unless, that is, some people decide that noise has to be made about this Games despite the hoard of medals our sportsmen took home. And I suspect someone somewhere will reignite the issue of the cauldron.

    Here’s what I would do (but again no one has asked me): I would retrofit the New Clark Stadium cauldron with wheels and roll it all the way from Capas to Taguig where it can stand as the Eternal Flame of Ambition.

    But why Taguig? Because I would relocate the cauldron within the Libingan ng mga Bayani where it can stand tall in honor of those who gave up their lives for this ambition: to help make this country even just a little bit better.

    Which, I hope, is an ambition we all share, the ambition worth supporting in others!
    Money well spent!

    (PS: the cauldron can also serve to guide pilots towards NAIA whenever there is a power outage at the airport!)