POC chief: Early SEA Games problems ‘just glitches,’ can't be avoided

Camille B. Naredo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Nov 26 2019 04:45 PM | Updated as of Nov 26 2019 05:30 PM

POC chief: Early SEA Games problems ‘just glitches,’ can't be avoided 1
Media members wait for the press conference at what seems like an unfinished venue before the start of the Malaysia-Myanmar men's football game in the Southeast Asian Games in Manila on Nov. 26, 2019. POC president Abraham Tolentino said the public must focus on the athletes, not on the problems besetting the Games because such issues were to be expected. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines — Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Abraham “Bambol" Tolentino is urging the public to focus on supporting the Filipino athletes amidst the chaotic start to the country’s hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games.

Filipinos on social media have been highly critical of the SEA Games organizers after issues surrounding the event’s budget were brought to light. The SEA Games cauldron, worth P50 million, became a major talking point days before it was set to be lit. 

The criticism only grew louder when it became clear that several venues were not yet ready with just days to go before the opening, and woes about travel and accommodations were bared by visiting national teams.

Tolentino, speaking at the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum on Tuesday, said hiccups such as those are normal in any hosting of a major multi-sport event.

“Hindi natin maiiwasan 'yung small glitches, minor glitches, but all of those are already solved and meron pong solution,” said Tolentino.

“Kahit ako, na-experience ko 'yan sa ibang bansa, 'yung ID ko, iba ang picture. Marami 'yan.”

Tolentino was referring to the troubles encountered by journalists and athletes at the Accreditation Center, where volunteers were overwhelmed by the number of people searching for their IDs.

Tolentino, who is also the chief of PhilCycling, the sport's national governing body, said these issues were to be expected considering the Philippines’ lack of time to prepare for the SEA Games. The country initially withdrew from hosting duties in 2017, before reversing its decision in August of the same year.

“I hope maintindihan ng iba, lalong-lalo na kulang ng year ang preparation natin. Remember dapat sa Brunei 'to,” said Tolentino.

Rather than pile on the criticisms, Tolentino said the public must instead shift its focus onto the athletes that are representing the country.

“We just focus on our athletes. Doon po tayo bumawi,” he said.

“Let’s move on,” he stressed. “We win as one, we stand as one in hosting the 30th SEA Games.”

Tolentino said that the Filipinos must make the most of the hosting, as it won’t happen again for another 14 years.

“Para sa bansa natin ‘to. ‘Wag muna tayo maghilahan,” he said. “Para sa bayan muna. Tanggapin natin, lahat tayo nagkakamali, pero ngayon, magsama-sama tayo. Let’s move on.”

“Bansa natin ang pinag-uusapan dito, at atleta po natin. We win as one, we stand as one in this 30th Southeast Asian Games.”

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