MANILA, Philippines -- Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Rep. Abraham "Bambol" Tolentino is hopeful that the Olympic Games will push through in Tokyo, as he believes that Filipino athletes have a strong chance of winning a breakthrough gold medal.
The International Olympic Committee (IOC) and Tokyo organizers are facing great pressure to postpone or even cancel the Summer Games outright, as Japan continues to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.
A recent survey in Japan has shown that 83% of voters believe the Tokyo Olympics should be postponed or scrapped. But IOC president Thomas Bach has rejected those calls and assured that the Games can push through safely.
"Together with our Japanese partners and friends, I can only re-emphasize this full commitment of the IOC to organize safe Olympic and Paralympic games for everybody," Bach said recently.
Speaking at the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum on Tuesday, Tolentino said he is firmly backing the stance of the IOC.
"The POC, as a member of the IOC, iisa ang direction namin ng IOC, na dapat matuloy," he said. "Kaya namang ituloy."
"With all the countermeasures, COVID countermeasures, kaya namang ituloy. So hindi ako pwedeng tumaliwa sa direction ng IOC," he said.
The IOC has taken steps to prevent an outbreak, including banning foreign spectators. According to Tolentino, they have also been instructed that athletes have to leave within two days after the end of their event. Their itinerary must also be submitted to the organizers.
Despite the strict health and safety protocols and the lack of foreign fans, Tolentino is still adamant that the Games should push through, especially as several Filipino athletes are seen as potential medalists.
"Sayang naman 'yung chance natin. Baka ito 'yung chance natin after 100 years na first gold, 'di ba?" he said.
"Bakit naman ako aayun doon sa gusto ng ibang CEO ng Japanese na cancel. Sila marami na silang gold na nakuha, at saka may kaya naman sila. Eh tayong third world na hindi pa nakakatikim ng gold, baka ito 'yung chance," he explained.
"Sayang naman kung hindi matutuloy."
Nine Filipino athletes have qualified for the Games: boxers Eumir Marcial, Irish Magno, Nesthy Petecio, and Carlo Paalam; pole vaulter EJ Obiena; gymnast Carlos Yulo; weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz; rower Cris Nievarez; and most recently taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa.
Marcial, Diaz, and Yulo are considered medal hopefuls in their respective sports. Diaz, in particular, is targeting the gold after winning silver in the Rio Olympics in 2016.
Many athletes have already expressed their apprehension about the Games, however. Notably, Japanese tennis stars Naomi Osaka and Kei Nishikori have called for a discussion about the risks that the Games pose.
Tokyo remains under a state of emergency because of the pandemic. Just over 5% of Japan has been vaccinated, while 12,394 deaths have been recorded. -- With a report from Reuters
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