The good in 2018
THE GAME OF MY LIFE - Bill Velasco (The Philippine Star) - January 1, 2018 - 12:00am

A blessed New Year to all.

What does 2018 have to offer Filipino sports fans? In spite of the political miasma enveloping sport, there has been much to be grateful for. For all the tugging and pulling in different directions, athletes still compete, some win, and hopefully, those in charge will have the sport’s benefit as their true agenda. What do we look forward to in 2018?

Bobsled. The STAR has learned that a pair of Philippine Coast Guard officers have been secretly training in two-man bobsled in Innsbruck in the Austrian Alps since October. Since the Philippine federation in charge of bobsled and luge and skeleton (a type of sleigh) is a small operation, they could not afford to send any alternates. Thus, neither athlete can afford to get injured. Luckily, the Austrian federation has given the Filipino athletes free stay at their dormitory, and lent a bobsled (which costs roughly 30,000 Euro) for them to train with. On Jan. 5, they will participate in the International Bobsleigh and Skeleton Federation (IBSF) European Cup, the first Southeast Asian athletes to do so, with the help of the Philippine Sports Commission. Should they surpass even just one European opponent, it would be considered a great victory.

POC Elections. This comes with a question mark, since democracy cuts both ways. The Pasig Regional Trial Court’s ruling to have new Philippine Olympic Committee elections in February can be appealed and delayed ad nauseum. It was definitely a moral victory, but until it actually happens, that’s all it could be. There have been reports of so many national sports associations “defecting” from the faction of incumbent Peping Cojuangco, but that’s all talk until they overcome their fear of reprisal and openly support ABAP’s Ricky Vargas or any other viable opposition. Until they are sure that a new election will indeed be held, they will play it safe and stay in the shadows. The POC could even use Vargas’ being the new PBA chairman as a conflict of interest technicality. In short, a lot can still happen. They could argue that you can’t run amateur sports and head a professional basketball league at the same time. But in the meantime, sports continues to grind on.

The 18th Asian Games. Hopefully, Indonesia has learned much from its experience hosting the 2011 SEA Games. It will be the first time two cities (Jakarta and Palembang) will be hosting the Asiad. In 2011, athletes in the village in Palembang had reasonable complaints, none of which had anything to do with competition. For one, the prefabricated walls of the dormitory were so thin, you could hear the person snoring in the next room. Also, guests were only allowed to have one set of clothes (one top and one bottom) laundered every day, and could only get their laundry after two days. (Athletes who competed every day had to launder their uniforms and hang them out the windows or balconies.) Third, athletes had to walk or take pedicabs in the heat to many of the venues. And of course, it rained on everyone all throughout the outdoor opening ceremonies.

SEA Games preparations. A few good men have been placed in strategic positions for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games. Now the hard work can begin in earnest. They can form committees, set a schedule, select venues, identify strategic sports, and conduct bidding for the gigantic logistical needs. The tasks can be divided and assigned. From the opening and closing ceremonies, media centers, transportation, food, accommodations, souvenirs, coordination, special needs and other provisions, the non-sports side of organization alone is quite formidable. Flight schedules, broadcast rights and coverage, signages, traffic, advertising and medical considerations have to be considered, as well. The PSC is gunning for the overall championship. But you can’t aim for a target until you know what it is.

Bodybuilding. The Philippines is hosting three major international bodybuilding events this year: the second Muscle Beach, the Phil-Asia, and the National Athletic Committee World Championships. Each is a qualifier for the next. Muscle Beach is the most recognized outdoor event of its kind in the world. The Phil-Asia has grown into one of the most respected competitions in the region. In 2016, NAC’s Executive Committee voted unanimously to hold its world championships in the Philippines, a significant honor for the country.

New directions for the PBA. There is officially a vacuum in the commissionership of the PBA. A new commissioner will have to address many issues, first and foremost is to allay fans’ fears of instability. Secondly, is there a certain level of fan fatigue, particularly in Metro Manila? Will Phoenix Petroleum’s acquisition of Kia help or hurt public perception? On one hand, Kia will have a fresh start under new management. On the other, they could be perceived as another monolithic corporation owning more than one team. The solution is actually simple to state but complex in its implementation: make the games compelling. It won’t matter to spectators if teams are sister companies or not, as long as the players give their utmost, night in and night out. After all, that’s what fabs are paying for, isn’t it? Beyond that, the league can further expand its peripheral promotions and extend its appeal further beyond getting fans in the stands or watching games on TV. 

Manny Pacquiao’s swan song. It’s the common curve of a great boxer’s career: hit a peak, try to sustain it, waver on when to let go. At this point in his career, Sen. Pacquiao has established himself as a decent, consistent legislator who may or may not be ready for higher office yet. The fact that is hard to face is that, when the decision point comes, he will no longer have boxing as his main propulsion system. So it becomes more important that, as his boxing options start to shrink, he plans his farewell from the sport properly, as both ambassador for the sport and statesman. Another embarrassing loss may hurt his future political ascension. But right now, who is there to fight?

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