PH mulls SEA Games pullout

By Abac Cordero, The Philippine Star

Posted at Jun 18 2013 09:30 AM | Updated as of Jun 18 2013 05:31 PM

Non-inclusion of Olympic events hit

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines has threatened to pull out of the Southeast Asian Games if the current rules on the selection of sports to be played are not revised, amended or corrected.

Top Filipino sports officials are already up in arms with the way organizers of the 27th SEA Games in Myanmar in December have allegedly tried to influence the overall results.

Myanmar has removed Olympic events like gymnastics, beach volleyball and lawn tennis from this year’s calendar in favor of indigenous sports like vovinam, kempo and chinlone.

These three indigenous sports will offer more than 40 gold medals, giving the host athletes a deep source of gold in its bid to improve on its seventh-place finish in 2011.

“They did not include tennis for what reason? Mahina kasi sila (They’re not good at it). Why did they add seven more golds in dragon boat? Kanila yun eh (It’s theirs).

“And another seven or eight gold medals in chess. If it’s going to be like that also in Singapore (in 2015) then God bless the SEA Games,” said Philippine Sports Commission chairman Richie Garcia.

He had suggested to Philippine Olympic Committee chairman Jose Cojuangco to host a meeting among members of the SEA Games Federation to tackle the matter.

The host country in the SEA Games has the right to include or remove certain events. But Garcia said there should be a limit to this and that the right should not be abused.

As a sign of protest, the Philippines will only send a token delegation to Myanmar.

Cojuangco said that if nothing is changed for the 2015 Singapore SEA Games, then the Philippines might as well pull out of the Games.

“I fully agree with Mr. Cojuangco on this matter. Kung wala naman babaguhin sa sistema, bakit pa tayo sasali? (If nothing is changed in the system then why should we join?),” he said.

Garcia said pulling out of the SEA Games doesn’t mean that Filipino athletes don’t have anything to look forward to because there are more events now of higher caliber to join like the Asian Indoor Games, Asian Beach Games, Asian Martial Arts Championships and the Asian Youth Games.

“What we’re asking for is something that will not be an advantage to us. When we hosted and won the overall title in 2005 we only included arnis and even lost in some of its events.”

The Philippines included arnis as the only indigenous in the Manila SEA Games in 2005. It offered only six gold medals and the hosts won only three, the other three going to Vietnam.

Garcia said if the Philippines had taken advantage of the situation, then it could have added more events in basketball, a sport where the Filipinos are perennial winners.

“We could have added gold medals in slam dunk, three-point shot, one-on-one and three-on-three,” said the PSC chief.

Garcia is hoping that Singapore, which has never won the SEA Games overall title, will agree to the changes when it hosts the event for the first time since 1993.

“Singapore would like to win the SEA Games (title) on the table, fair and square. Knowing Singapore they will not even reduce the Olympic sports but may include some indigenous sports,” Garcia said.

Garcia said they will suggest to the SEA Games Federation that Olympic sports be made permanent in the SEA Games calendar, and that there be a limit to the traditional sports.

He added that host countries can put in as many events and offer gold medals in indigenous sports but they should not reflect in the overall medal tally.

“This (current setup) should not continue. It’s not good for everyone. We should put more emphasis on Olympic sports. If they accept this formula there’s no problem. It will be fair to all,” said Garcia.

Otherwise, the Philippines will pull out of the SEA Games.