For the past 4 years, the Philippines Sports Commission has invested millions of pesos in the training and the international campaigns of the majority of the 19 Filipino standard-bearers who will compete in the Tokyo Olympic Games finally opening on Friday.
So it isn’t surprising for PSC chairman William “Butch” Ramirez to expect a “return on investment” from these athletes, whom he described Monday as the “most prepared and strongest” campaigners ever assembled for the quadrennial sports showcase.
“In my view, these 19 athletes are most prepared since we began competing in the 1924 Paris Olympic Games,” said Ramirez, during an online press conference.
In 2021 alone, the PSC chief, scheduled to leave for the Japanese capital on Thursday, has already spent P278 million for them, as well as for those who tried to qualify but missed the Olympic boat.
Due to the huge expense, he said it was only natural for the government sports agency and the entire nation to expect results from the financial support.
“Malaki ang expectation ng bayan. (The nation expects much.) People’s money was spent. Grabe ang binuhos ng gobyerno sa mga atleta (The government spending on these athletes was huge),” he noted.
“We expect a return on investment, and it can be frustrating if they don’t return with gold, or silver.
“The PSC may be asked why we are spending so much money kung wala namang balik. Even Congress will ask if our athletes fail to deliver.”
“Na-feel ko na malaki ang pera ng pinipirmahan ko (para sa mga atleta), milyon. Pera ng taong bayan ito. Ano kaya ang isasagot ko kung walang resulta?” Ramirez wondered out loud.
(I feel that the checks we are signing for the athletes are huge, in the millions. This is government money. So what will I answer if there are not results?)
He mentioned weightlifter and Rio Olympic silver medalist Hidylin Diaz, who has been training in Malaysia since January 2020, as an example of the PSC’s all-out support for the Pinoy Olympians.
“Hidylin has 2 coaches, a nutritionist, a physiotherapist with her. We gave everything that she needs to do well in Tokyo,” Ramirez said, adding that this was true of the other athletes.
While he refused to make any predictions on how the national team will perform, “with the kind of preparations and financial support we have given to the athletes plus their achievements, we believe that they can win gold.”
As a former coach and athlete himself, Ramirez bared several ingredients needed for an athlete to excel internationally.
“One aspect is the preparation of the athlete, not just talent or having an excellent coach. They also need extensive international exposure, and the PSC spent an enormous expense on these athletes for that,” he said.
The PSC boss said he had mixed emotions about going to Tokyo, revealing that his family had qualms about his prolonged stay in the Japanese capital.
“I am 71 years old, and going there is not easy. You can die with COVID-19. I am risking my life going there,” Ramirez acknowledged.
On the other hand, the PSC head, who will be accompanied by PSC national training director Marc Velasco, was excited going to Tokyo because “I might be able to witness our country winning our first gold.”
As the country’s top government representative at the Summer Games, Ramirez said he needed to be there to would show his support by going to all of the events of the Olympic athletes until Aug. 6, although his eldest son Omar preferred that he stayed there just for a week.
Ramirez said that among his priorities was to meet with Jose Laurel, the Philippine ambassador to Japan, to discuss contingency plans that could affect the national contingent for the duration of the Olympics.
“I am monitoring morning, noon and night what is happening there,” said Ramirez, aware that Tokyo and its neighboring areas are still under government-imposed state of emergency due to the COVID-19 pandemic.