• Where winning is everything



    It has been usual for the host of the biennial Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games) to scrap certain events for, well, ulterior and “patriotic” motives.

    By doing away with disciplines where its athletes have little or no chance at all of winning a medal of any color, that host will have saved its face and increased its chances of bagging the SEA Games overall or general championship (even if the International Olympic Committee frowns on this “achievement”).

    The 2017 edition of the Games in Kuala Lumpur is no exception, the one-upmanship being shamelessly honed to perfection by Malaysia, which has been reported to be booting out women’s weightlifting and some divisions in men’s boxing.

    Malaysian athletes are not known to excel in weightlifting (men or women) or boxing (men or women), and so Kuala Lumpur’s putting one over the other participating countries is rather easy to explain.

    To be fair, past hosts of the third-tier regional competition—and no offense meant to eventual Rio Olympic gold medal winner (backstroke) Joseph Schooling, who was a SEA Games standout before landing the biggest catch of his career—were equally guilty of pruning the Games calendar for the same reason that Malaysia is doing it.

    If these hosts had their way, the Philippines included, they would have inserted parlor games for “insurance” gold medals.

    Such preoccupation with winning seemingly has cemented the reputation of the SEA Games as a, well, third-tier tournament, give or take a Schooling of Singapore.

    Months ahead of the August 2107 SEA Games, the Philippines recently expressed disappointment at the decision of organizers to throw out the two events, which it claims would make champions of some members of Team Philippines.

    The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) is flattering itself, of course.

    Even if women’s weightlifting and some divisions in men’s boxing were restored, and the Philippines wins them all, it still would not catapult the country’s delegation to the top of the medal table.

    And even if rope jumping were to be included in the calendar at the last minute, this corner believes that the PSC will have to move heaven and earth to find a qualified rope jumper to compete at the regional level.

    Seriously, there had been attempts to make rope jumping an official Olympic event but apparently those who pushed for it fell short of the IOC’s criteria for inclusion.

    The ideal host would be Canada, site of the 1976 Summer Olympic Games.

    A sports power to reckon with, the Canadians welcomed the best that the world could offer, including Nadia Comaneci, who scored the first perfect 10 in women’s gymnastics.

    But apparently, Canada’s best were not good enough—its Olympians failed to win a single gold medal.

    They fought hard and Montreal did not make it easier for them by scrapping certain events.

    Organizers of the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, which the Philippines will be hosting, can take their pick of the Malaysian or Canadian model.

    Knowing the misplaced values and priorities of Filipino sports overlords, your guess is as good as mine on which they would choose.

    But even if they did, the Philippines would still be the doormat two years from now.


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