MANILA, Philippines - A token delegation to the 27th Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar doesn’t mean that every Tom, Dick and Harry can join the Philippine team.
“When we say token, it’s still the best of the best. It’s not like we can send just anybody,” said the chef-de-mission of the Philippine delegation to Myanmar.
Then it’s not actually a token team but a lean and mean delegation.
Jeff Tamayo, head of the Philippine Soft Tennis Association, is looking at a smaller delegation compared to the 512 athletes that represented the country in Laos in 2011.
There will be 460 events in 33 sports in the Myanmar SEA Games on Dec. 11 to 22, but certain events that were either included or removed from the calendar favor the hosts.
The Philippines alone stands to lose 16 of the 36 gold medals it won in Laos because these events will no longer be played in Myanmar.
“Nagpasok sila ng sports na puwede nila ikalamang (They included sports where they can have the advantage),” Tamayo told yesterday’s PSA Forum at Shakey’s Malate.
The hosts have decided to scrap Olympic sports like beach volleyball, lawn tennis and gymnastics in favor of combat sports such as vovinam and kempo with 18 golds each.
Eight more golds will be disputed in chinlone (cane ball), another indigenous sport which the host athletes are expected to dominate.
Tamayo said the joke among other officials that attended the SEA Games Federation meeting in Myanmar was, “Welcome to the 2013 Martial Arts Championships.”
However, Tamayo said table tennis, badminton and water polo will remain in the calendar.
The Philippines, which finished sixth overall in Laos in 2011, is in danger of being overtaken by Myanmar in the medal standings. If that happens, the Filipinos can end up in seventh place.
Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richie Garcia said it’s unfortunate that nearly half of the events the Philippines ruled two years ago have been scratched this year.
“We are already losing the battle,” he said.
The chief of the government’s funding arm in sports broached the idea of sending a token delegation instead of a full delegation, and save money in the process.
The Philippines sent 512 athletes to Laos and brought home 36-47-77 (gold, silver and bronze) medals.
“A lot of martial arts sports have been included and these are subjective sports,” said Tamayo, who also ruled out the have-money-will-travel policy for Filipino athletes.
Tamayo said a criteria will soon be put in place to determine who makes it to the Philippine delegation, and said it’s too early to talk about the country’s chances.
“In five months I can say something. I don’t have a crystal ball,” he said.