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11:56 PM March 7th, 2013

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By: Manolo R. Iñigo, March 7th, 2013 11:56 PM

The scrapping of important Olympic events in the Southeast Asian Games this year by host country Myanmar does not sit well with several members of the SEA Games Federation.

The issue has also become a simmering concern among sports-loving Filipinos that sports officials are now reconsidering the extent of the country’s participation in the Games.

“This is a bad sign for the region,” said Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero, the Senate’s most vocal supporter of sports. “We have been struggling in sports for so long, and news about the SEA Games host clipping Olympic sports from the calendar—if only to ensure its own victories in sports unfamiliar to its neighbors—do not help the region in any way,” he added.

For example, at the 2012 London Olympics, not one SEA Games country won a gold. Thailand won two silver and one bronze medals, Malaysia and Indonesia settled for a silver and a bronze, and Singapore captured two bronzes.

Myanmar’s decision to scrap certain Olympic sports has led member countries, particularly the Philippines and Singapore, to call for the standardization of SEA Games calendar of events.

“Maybe it’s time we thought about the region’s sports future by supporting calls for a standard calendar in future SEA Games,” said Escudero, an avid pistol shooter and cycling enthusiast.

Escudero said the government should back the Philippine Olympic Committee’s bid to help arrest the country’s series of failures in international competitions.

Sports have long been in the sidelines of government priorities, but Escudero said it is important in gauging a country’s economic growth.

The more developed countries have Olympic champions; we have none yet.

The senator said the government can make an impact by raising the level of sports in Southeast Asia. While national Olympic committees, like the POC, are autonomous and supposed to be free from political pressure and interference, there is a very thin line of division.

There is a need to maintain respect between NOCs and governments so they could be of one mind in such issues as Myanmar’s blatant manipulation of SEA Games events to favor its own interests.

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I honestly believe that billiards and bowling, where Filipinos are second to none, should be included in the Olympic calendar.

Billiards icon Efren “Bata” Reyes and Francisco “Django” Bustamante and bowling Hall of Famer Paeng Nepomuceno have proven their worth by dominating their respective events.

Reyes and Bustamante are world nine-ball and eight-ball champions while Nepomuceno is a many-time World Bowling Cup winner.

A recent survey conducted by Billiards Digest, the “Bible of Cue Artists all over the World,” showed that Filipino billiards players rank high, outclassing even their American, European and Chinese Taipei counterparts.

Having said that, I am appealing to the country’s sports leaders to get their acts together and end our long-running tag as sports’ “Sick Man of Asia.”

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TAGS: SEA Games
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