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Lending a presidential ear to sports

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IT’S AN idea as old as time: Make a cabinet level sports department a reality.

So why would Michael Keon, a former president of the Philippine Olympic Committee, dust off the cobwebs and present it like a fresh notion?

“Because it is about time sports gets closer to the ear of any sitting President of the land,” Mike says.

Keon, a former governor of Ilocos Norte—arguably the most sports conscious of provinces during his watch—is again batting for a full-blown Department of Sports, with a few new wrinkles.

Mike, whose Gintong Alay Program under the regime of his uncle, Ferdinand Marcos, remains the gold standard for long-term athlete development, bats for the abolition of the Philippine Sports Commission.

He argues that a well-funded cabinet department that would include liaison officers from the Department of the Interior and Local Governments, the POC and the Department of Education would do the trick.

This setup, he says, would help centralize our sports system like those of Cuba, Jamaica and giants like China and the United States while “bringing sports back to the grassroots where they start their way up to Olympic heights.”

You don’t need to log on to Google Earth to find where athletes are. Mike says a ground force of local government units and school officials already knows where to tap a battalion of prospects.

The biggest bonanza of all, Keon says, is that during cabinet meetings, the secretary of sports, like his colleagues, will have equal time with the President to advocate for sports as a tool for nation-building.

Cito Dayrit, who took over the POC helm in 1999, has his own take on the issue.

Dayrit recalls that a bill was sponsored in Congress a while back to create a so-called Philippine Sports Authority on a department level. But the legislation withered on the vine and died eventually.

“Since a new department entails a new budget, creating it will require a high level of decision-making on the part of any president with bigger fish to fry,” Dayrit says.

Dayrit won’t say for sure that a sports czar with a cabinet portfolio is a great idea, although in his mind, it could be workable.

“Regardless of the organization, it will be the people who will run it that eventually determines its success,” according to Dayrit. “In any case, we need the right people with the right vision to make things happen.”

“We don’t need another bureaucracy,” says Arthur Macapagal. “We need more focus.”

Art, an Olympic shooter in his time, definitely would have had the ear of his half-sister, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, had he won the POC presidency in 2008.

“Despite heavier burdens to bear, any sitting president is tuned in to sports,” according to Macapagal.

Art says a surefire formula to snag the attention of the president is for our athletes to bring home medals from sports competitions abroad.

“Long-term training and specialization in the Olympic sports are the keys,” he stressed, echoing Keon’s stand on athlete buildup.

* * *

Today’s our traditional Yuletide gift-giving to 100 or so indigent families of Tamurong Primero, Candon City, Ilocos Sur. Thanks to Emma Gonzaga Soquerata, Raffy Baraan, Butch Velasco, Fidel Dacquel Jr. and our daughters Teresa, Louella and Lana in Sacramento, California, for lending support in cash and in kind.


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