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Win the war, not the battle

WRECKORDER - FGS Gujilde (The Freeman) - January 21, 2021 - 12:00am

Sports authorities eye third place finish for Team Philippines in the Southeast Asian Games in Vietnam late this year. Realistic. For even if the country ran away as champion when it hosted the 29th edition two years ago with 149-117-121 gold, silver, bronze medal tally, there is no way it can defend the crown, much less duplicate the score line.

Among others, what accounted for that unprecedented medal collection is our liberty to introduce optional disciplines we had the best chance at gold and drop others we were hopeless to medal, subject to games federation approval. Host country privilege. I call it undue advantage or better yet, cheating consented.

Exactly why even if I was ecstatic, I was not that impressed. We should look for lasting reasons to celebrate and refuse to falsify hope. I would have been genuinely awed had we won more in mandatory events included in the Olympic calendar where our regional neighbors have broken through.

 Powerhouse Thailand slugged and powered to a combined 9 gold medals in boxing and weightlifting while Indonesia has 7, all from badminton. Singapore never topped the regional games, but swam to gold in the swimming pool. Just like us, the gold eludes Malaysia but it has 7 silvers, unlike us. They must have done something right, including treating the regional games as mere preparatory to the one that matters.

I wouldn’t mind whether we finish on top, bottom or elsewhere in the ranking, so long as we win a sport found in the Olympic board. Not just win. But win big, in a performance at par with world standard. 

Or at least in the Asian Games, widely regarded as the continental equivalent of the quadrennial games where China is bored with its redundant supremacy in a level it considers mediocre. They topped the continental games several times over like it was their private backyard, but uses it as mere yardstick for the ultimate. Against their Asian foes, China merely warms up, while we warmly welcome its invasion, in sports or elsewhere.

It could be argued every host country takes advantage of the privilege anyway, exactly why participating countries are content with second best. In 2017, host Malaysia scheduled the 400m hurdles and 100m sprint finals within less than an hour of each other, to tire Eric Cray down the wire. It worked. For while Cray narrowly defended his hurdles crown first, he ceded the century dash to a Malaysian sprinter next. That is not use, but abuse of privilege.

But just because everyone else does makes it right. Right is right and wrong is wrong, regardless of how many are. No middle ground, otherwise known as compromise. For, if we lose the ability to tell right from wrong, society will not survive that long. Once discernment is gone, decency is lost, and humanity becomes savagery. Of course, what is right and wrong is debatable. But the essentials of justice and equity are non-negotiable. Fair play in sports is one of them.

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