MANILA, Philippines - (UPDATE) The 74th season of the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) kicks off with an Olympic-style opening ceremony today at 4 p.m. at the Marikina Sports Park.
Over 12,000 athletes, program participants, students, alumni, and fans are expected to attend the event.
All athletes in 15 sports will march around the Marikina Sports Park’s track oval to highlight the affair.
UAAP President Ricky Palou and secretary-treasurer Emmanuel Fernandez will head the guest list that includes Ateneo President Fr. Jett Villarin, the entire UAAP board, the 8 member-schools’ top officials, alumni and students.
Former Ateneo standout and PBA superstar Olsen Racela will light the cauldron to signify the opening of the season that will carry the theme “All Heart. All Out.”
Another highlight of the affair is the solemn entry of colors where the cadets of host school Ateneo will bring in a 60-x-30-feet flag.
University of Santo Tomas (UST), the perennial general champion, has the most number of athletes who will join the parade with 627, followed by University of the East (UE) with 512.
University of the Philippines (UP) will bring in 425 athletes, De La Salle University with 417, Adamson University with 300, Far Eastern University with 300, and National University (NU) with 260.
Rain or shine
According to Palou, the idea for a 2-hour Olympic-style ceremony was brought up 3 years ago.
“But the serious work started in January this year and the actual rehearsals began in April,” said opening ceremony project head Benjo Afuang.
Afuang said they will use around 4,000 color-coded umbrellas in the event of rain.
Fernandez said only a storm will be able to stop the ceremony.
The ceremony will end with a free concert featuring Sponge Cola, The Itchyworms, Kjwan, and a fireworks display.
In men's basketball, three-peat champions the Ateneo Blue Eagles remain the favorite to win the tournament.
Fans are also eagerly awaiting the debut of several rookies. These include Keifer Ravena and 7-footer Greg Slaughter of Ateneo, and Bobby Ray Parks Jr., son of former Philippine Basketball Association import Bobby Parks, who is suiting up for the NU Bulldogs.
Norman Black, coach of the Ateneo Blue Eagles, said they are ready for the season.
"One of the key things this year is going to be the fact that we have to remain hungry. When I say that, it really starts in practice. We have to work hard, and practice every day, [and] understand that all the teams would be trying to shoot us down," he said.
Eric Altamirano, coach of the NU Bulldogs, on the other hand, said, "I expect our team to be fighting it out. We're gonna give it our best shot. We're confident. We're optimistic that we'll be able to compete with the top teams."
The men's basketball games start on July 10. -- With a report from ANC