PHILIPPINE Sports Commission chairman Butch Ramirez will call for a meeting tomorrow with top officials of all National Sports Associations fielding athletes to the 30th Southeast Asian Games for their “honest-to-goodness” evaluation of their medal prospects in the games set to open on Nov. 30 at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
“This meeting will be exclusive to the president and secretary general of each NSA that will have athletes in the SEA Games,” Ramirez, the chief of mission of Team Philippines, said yesterday. “We want to hear their assessment and medal projections regarding their respective athletes.”
The 11-nation games the country will host for the fourth time will be a huge spectacle featuring a total of 56 sports disciplines and 530 events, with obstacle course racing, pentathlon, skateboarding and electronic sports (video games) among the disciplines set to make their debuts.
Ramirez noted that the PSC has gone all out, spending P1 billion for the intensive training and international exposure of the Filipino campaigners who will enjoy the hometown advantage.
Some of them, like athletes in the medal-rich sports of track and field and swimming, have begun training at the new 20,000-seat Athletic Stadium and 2,000-capacity Aquatic Center at the New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac.
Given these factors, Ramirez remained bullish about the ability of the national standard bearers regaining the SEA Games overall crown the country last savored in the 2005 Philippine Games.
Backed by an additional P300 million raised by former First Gentleman Miguel Arroyo through private sponsors, the Pinoy bets in 2005 emerged as overall champions for the first time with a sterling haul of 113 gold, 84 silver an 94 bronze medals.
“Playing on home turf, we will be very competitive (in the battle for the overall championship),” Ramirez stressed. “I foresee us fighting with Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore for No. 1. Bakbakan ang mga ‘yan.”
Among those who conceded the Filipinos would be tough to beat on home grounds is Malaysian sports official Dato Sieh Kok Chieh, the former secretary general of the Olympic Council of Malaysia, who shared his detailed sentiments on his Facebook page last Oct. 29.
“The Philippines will naturally be the champion, with Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore fighting for second to sixth positions,” he said, adding the Filipinos had copied the successful formula that the Malaysians used when they hosted the meet two years ago.
“Being the host, Malaysia had certain advantages, which were maximized by the (local) organizing committee,” Sieh noted.
He cited the examples of diving “where the events were increased from the normal eight to 13,” as well as pencack silat “where the events were increased from the normal of 14 to 20.”
The Malaysian sports official also admitted that “the events of a number of sports such as boxing, fencing, judo, (and) weightlifting were reduced by half.
“What happened in 2017 did not go unnoticed and was picked up by PHILSOC (sic),” he said.
Malaysia bagged overall honors in the 2017 Games with a tally of 154 gold, 91 silver and 86 bronze medals.