MANILA, Philippines - Unless a new host has been chosen, the Philippines will soon formalize its bid to stage the 2019 Asian Games more than 60 years after the country’s first and only hosting of the quadrennial event.
Philippine Olympic Committee president Jose Cojuangco said he already mentioned the possibility to Olympic Council of Asia president Sheikh Ahmad Fahad Al Sabah a few months ago.
“But now I will have to clear it with the OCA president if the bidding is still open,” said Cojuangco in a weekly sports radio program aired over DZEC.
Cojuangco said he was advised by the OCA chief to “test the waters” with the other OCA members.
The POC chief said the opportunity will come during the second Youth Olympic Games from Aug. 16 to 28 in Nanjing, China, where seven Filipino athletes will compete.
Cojuangco will join the Philippine delegation to Nanjing along with Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richie Garcia.
“I thought that would be an ideal opportunity for me to rub elbows with OCA members and introduce them our plan. Kapag positive ang response, then we’ll start lobbying,” said Cojuangco.
“If the 2019 hosting has not yet been awarded to any country, then the Philippines will try to offer our bid,” he added during the program hosted by veteran sports scribe Eddie Alinea.
This year’s Asian Games will be held in Incheon, South Korea, exactly 60 years after the Philippines hosted the event in 1954.
Former President Ramon Magsaysay declared the 1954 Asian Games open at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex. The late Enrique Beech, a multi-sport athlete, lighted the torch.
Only 970 athletes from 18 countries participated then and vied for the 77 gold medals staked in only eight sports disciplines.
The numbers have grown since then and for this year’s Asian Games they expect around 9,000 athletes from 45 nations to dispute 439 gold medals in 36 sports.
Cojuangco said the brand-new Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan, which was built by Iglesia ni Kristo at a cost of over $200 million, can serve as the main hub.
It has an arena that can seat 55,000 fans and adjacent venues that can play host to other events.
In its official website, however, the Philippine Arena is only capable of hosting sporting events like basketball, boxing, tennis or gymnastics but not soccer or any field events like track and field.
Cojuangco said there’s enough time to work things out, including the holding of games in satellite venues the way it was done during the 2005 Manila SEA Games.
The Asian Games are held every four years but the OCA decided to hold the next one in 2019 or one year before the Tokyo Olympics. Vietnam was named host but announced last April its decision to give it up due to lack of time to prepare.