Philippine Sports is in a bind. Clearly, there is hope and great enthusiasm with the inroads made now by the new administration in the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC). The renewed interest in harnessing local talents through a reinvigorated grassroots development program is showing great promise. The recent creation of the Philippine Sports Institute (PSI) – to be replicated in select provinces to ensure that athletes with great potential are given proper attention – is creating high hopes for a better performance in the next Southeast Asian (SEA) Games. Athletes and sports fans are sitting up. Finally, things are moving for Philippine Sports.
Unfortunately, while these efforts are worthy of all the support we can muster, the continued presence of a factionalizing Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) is somehow making this effort a tad more difficult. Not a few sponsors, supporters and sports enthusiasts are wary of contributing any effort that is perceived to give credit to the POC. There are those who say they want to support Philippine Sports, but will not have anything to do with the POC. How do you thread that fine line then?
There lies the big enigma now. While we are unanimous in the dream of recovering the lost glory and respectability in international sports, many are hesitant in that these noble inroads might only serve to cement the hold of the POC over Philippine Sports, further perpetuating the decadence and the inept environment it had woefully nurtured.
Many consider the POC to be the bane of Philippine Sports today. Rather than being able to provide inspiration, and proper guidance and leadership, it has been consistently tagged as the cause of factionalism and disunity. Instead of taking the lead in solving fractious issues, it has stoked the fires of divisiveness even more. Thus, the POC has become a distraction, an added load that makes our athletes’ training and competition even more difficult. Recently, POC’s Peping Cojuangco announced that the Philippines will capture 2 or more golds for the next Asian Games. While everyone is glad with the prediction, there is no clear blueprint as to how he can make that dream a reality.
Peping was very recently re-elected President of the POC, in a sham election where he ran unopposed. He is the country’s sports despot, with the longest-running reign as POC head at 12 years and counting, and with very little to show for it. One would think that, having fought hard against the Marcos regime during the 70s and 80s, he would be less tolerant of extended terms of office and political dynasties. But no, this is now his 4th term, and he has positioned his daughter, Mikee, as the Philippines’ permanent member to the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
How convenient is that? We now have a tag-team where Peping gets first jab at any ‘non-aligned’ National Sports Association (NSA) in the country. Should there be any complaints that reach the IOC, Mikee’s there to clean up. This dynasty then is assured, for so long as Peping’s POC mafia and the back-up in IOC remain intact.
But despite the agony that this cruel environment has dealt us, there is now a glitter of hope. Athletes are starting to wake up more confident of getting the needed support. There is now more activity and more noise in Ultra, considered home for many of our athletes. There is now more talk of the possibility of making a career in sports. It is like life has finally come back to the stadium, after years of slow deterioration and neglect. With no less than the PSC’s main man, Butch Ramirez, pitching camp at the Ultra’s Athletes’ dormitory, things are certainly perking up.
The PSC’s new leadership is hands on, as epitomized by Butch. His mere presence in the dorm area assures the athletes that their welfare is now a top priority. The renovation of the dorms is now ongoing. The arrival of new coaches, innovations and equipment has started. So with the training opportunities here and abroad. For the 600-plus athletes housed in Ultra, the blessings are just starting to pour in.
With the launching of the PSI, the PSC hopes to focus attention on 3 vital elements it feels will help us regain sports respectability, namely: grassroots development, enhanced coaching capabilities at all levels, and high performance training for the talents identified. With this new focus, there is guarded optimism and excitement; and hence, a new hope.
There remain a lot of people still determined to help uplift Philippine Sports. Despite the challenges, the distractions, and the self-inflicted road bumps, I know that we will not just survive, we will definitely move forward.
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