MANILA, Philippines – In an attempt to put on "the best ever" Southeast Asian Games, the Philippines has tapped the 55,000-capacity Philippine Arena to host the grand opening ceremony of the biennial event in November 2019.
Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Ricky Vargas announced Thursday that the Philippine Arena – touted as the biggest indoor arena in the world – is the first option to host the opening ceremonies as the country promises to put on a grand show.
"Of course, the goal is to show our best foot forward," said Vargas of the opening ceremonies. "Tayo pa? Lahat ng tao dito sa Pilipinas, sumasayaw or kumakanta. We're good in the arts."
"We will show them what the Filipino talent is all about," he added.
According to Ramon "Tats" Suzara, the executive director of the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee, the opening ceremony will be "going in the level of digital."
"You can just imagine – the digital lighting of the flame," he said.
"We're going digital, but of course, we have a back-up of the normal, traditional opening ceremony that we got the national athletic stadium and light the flame there," he added. "We are still discussing this."
What is certain is that the local organizing committee is going all out in its hosting.
"The preparation we are doing, we are in the Asian Games level," Suzara bared. "We are not doing a SEA Games level of organizing the events – we are doing it in the Asian Games level."
"That's why the expectations in my master plan with the executive board, with Secretary Alan (Peter Cayetano) and president Vargas is that this is the best ever SEA Games," he said, adding that they are seeking support from the private sector regarding the funding.
Of course, all eyes will be on how the Filipino athletes perform in the SEA Games, especially after a disappointing performance in the 2017 edition of the event in Malaysia. Team Philippines brought home only 23 gold medals from Kuala Lumpur, and finished in sixth place.
"We said we'd like to improve our standing from (sixth) to at least Top 3," Vargas said. "But if we can get the overall championship, we will, of course, try to do so."
For more sports coverage, visit the ABS-CBN Sports website.