Spare sports the blight

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If we demand of our athletes that they win honors for the country, then we must recruit men and women with championship potentials at a very young age—and wholeheartedly support them.

There is an embarrassment of riches out there in terms of Olympics-class talents, with close to 100 million people to choose from. How to identify and train the best takes money, and “ . . . ay, there’s the rub!”

It is not much, but the money is available, and that’s the good news. The bad news? Little though it already is, the money is stolen by officials entrusted with the running of the national sports program.

The government endows the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) with P20 million every year for the Philippine National Games (PNG). This is supposed to be the most elementary and grassroots level competition in which every Filipino athlete must participate to show his prowess and qualification. For this reason every national sports association or NSA, which is supposed to organize the development of its sports and the athletes engaged in it, must participate in the PNG in collaboration with local governments.


Also,the government has earmarked P500 million for the support of NSAs that are participating in the 2013 Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar in November. And various outlays are made, sometimes from the national coffers, often from the wealth of such corporations as the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor), to help fund the training and participation of potential medal-winners in competitions abroad.

Whatever the total, the amount is ridiculously low, given the fact that there are more than 50 autonomous NSAs the government through the PSC should support. Among others are boxing, tennis, softball, billiards, gymnastics, archery, chess, fencing, swimming, track and field, canoe-kayak, rugby, football, cycling, skating, tae kwon do and wushu.

Athletes need nutritious food and vitamin supplements to sustain them when they undergo the rigors of training and, to get their minds off mundane things, enough stipends. It goes without saying that they should also be provided with shoes and uniforms, and other incidentals.

If you think the Philippine government spends too much just to allow some teenagers the luxury of playing games all day long, China, Japan, the United States, and the Russian Federation, spend a thousand fold more for that very purpose.

For an idea what these countries do for their athletes, think of the Spartans in ancient Greece, when boys at age seven were taken in and prepared by the state for a life of warfare. Although they also learned rhetoric, mathematics, and science, the focus was on military training and excellence.

That cost a treasure, of course. However, we must be prepared to emulate these countries, if we hope to successfully compete in regional and international sports events. We must subsidize the various sports groups and support the athletes, but first we must make sure that these athletes are chosen according to their winning potentials, without the usual politics and favoritism that usually mar the process.

If we cannot do that we might as well stop participating in these competitions. For every time we do, we only reinforce the perception that we are a nation of losers.

There is need to increase the budget for the upkeep of athletes, but first the Philippine Sports Commission and the Philippine Olympics Committee should get their act together.

Maybe it is time we demanded that politicians relinquish their grip on the national sports program.

It’s bad enough that corruption is pervasive in these organizations. It is worse that politicians run them and give the athletes and coaches training of the wrong kind: in the dark art of thievery.

Corruption is spreading from the government to the private sector. Spare sports the blight.

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