P30M for Olympic gold is too much

TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag - The Freeman

Restraint has never been the best suit of Filipinos. We tend to go overboard in everything. We overdo things. Neither prudence nor common sense can make us push back to see if we are not making fools of ourselves. Take our hunger for a first-ever olympic gold medal. That we would give an arm and a leg for it does not mean we actually have to cut off any limb. Which is exactly what dangling P30 million for an olympic gold amounts to me.

That is so much more than the $37,500 the US Olympic Committee currently gives American olympic gold medal winners. In Philippine pesos, at a peso-dollar exchange rate of P50 to $1, that $37,500 would translate to only P1,875,000. An olympic gold is not solid but plated. Melted down, give or take variations in weight and size due to hosting preferences, experts agree a gold medal fetches no more than $500, or P25,000 if sold.

Sold at auction, though, an olympic gold can fetch more than its melted form. The same experts agree an olympic gold medal sold at auction can go to as high as between $20,000 to $50,000. But the price of an olympic gold sold at auction is not dictated by its actual gold content but by the value and significance of the win for which the gold was given.

Auctions do not lie when it comes to value and significance. Thus, as painful as it is to accept, but an olympic gold that may finally be won by the Philippines, for example by my fellow Cebuano Margielyn Didal in skateboarding, will never ever command a price, or assume a value or significance that can come close to a similar olympic gold medal won by, say, Usain Bolt, in 200 meters.

I am not saying a medal, any color medal, should be sold by its owner, even if some actually did. My making price comparisons is my way of saying I hate the idea of putting a monetary value on medals. If a gold does finally come our way, I hate to think it came because the incentive had been dangled to something as ridiculously astronomical as P30 million. To me, a lifetime of preparing for that one shot at glory is still the essence of winning.

Kenya and Ethiopia have been racking up gold medals in the Olympics. And I do not think it has something to do with monetary incentives. These countries, poor as they are, simply know which sports to compete in. They know their strengths as well as their weaknesses. They train their whole lives for the things that give them their best chance. That's why they excel in what they do.

The Philippines does not have that philosophy. We are 11th hour practitioners. There is no discipline that we do not train for only at the last minute. Ask any athlete, and the lack of any training and preparation is the worst way to send him off to any olympic battle. And then we expect him to bring home the gold on account of a P30-million incentive? Well, maybe he will. And then what, inspire future generations of "bounty-hunters"?

Don't get me wrong. I do wish we finally get a gold in Tokyo. And I will be rooting and praying for each Filipino fighting for flag, pride, and, well, the money that comes with the gold. I do have questions. Is the P30 million for the first gold or for every gold? And will it be for every Olympics thereafter or just for Tokyo? My fear is this thing about money and the expectations it generates will doom forever our participation in all future Olympics.

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