How big or how little of the more than P7-billion budget of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games goes to drumming up the interest of Filipinos in the region’s sports showcase should not get in the way of the celebratory mood that is expected to greet the event.
But it does, with the competition only less than two months away and yet not many locals seem to be aware that the greatest athletic show this side of Asia is about to begin.
Ironic, because the 2020 Tokyo Summer Olympics and the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics have started their respective countdowns years ahead of actual pole vaulting or ski jumping.
At this time, Metro Manila (National Capital Region or NCR) at least should already be awash with tarpaulins and streamers proclaiming this year’s edition of the SEA Games that the Philippine will be hosting for the fourth time in more than three decades, but it’s not.
Instead, the NCR is weighed down by billboards announcing the latest mobile phones, movies, restaurants and mall sales that draw the attention of motorists and commuters.
This corner was expecting Hidilyn Diaz or EJ Obiena smiling from a billboard or two along EDSA announcing the readiness of the country to shower the world with its vaunted hospitality, as well as that of the Filipino athletes joining the action–with no less than the “overall” championship at the back of their mind.
Even the official logo of the 30th SEA Games is missing from the landscape in a stark case of commerce winning over competition among Southeast Asian rivals.
We also don’t know if the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee or Phisgoc has started selling tickets for the Games set for November-December in Manila, Tarlac and Subic, among several venues.
Hope for the best but brace for the worst where the Filipinos actually making time to see gymnasts doing their routines on the horizontal bars or swimmers preparing for their heats in the backstroke or freestyle are concerned.
Those were the options that Qatar took regarding the World Track and Field Championships that are ongoing in Doha, and the consequences are pathetic for the host country: Sleek stadiums are empty despite the Qatari government pulling out all the stops to show the world that it is also ready for the 2022 World Cup just as it thought that it was supposedly prepared for the athletic championships.
With fanfare absent from the run-up to the 30th SEA Games, we have just lost our reputation for celebrating fiestas like no other.
The Phisgoc should lead us to the fiesta that is next month’s competition, not to what looks like a wake, by painting the town red, white and blue.