Philippines competes in Myanmar games despite row

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MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines said Monday it will send its best athletes to the upcoming Southeast Asian Games in Myanmar despite alleged cherry-picking of sports to give the host country the most medals.

The head of the Philippine mission Jeff Tamayo said he was prepared for a poor medal showing at the 27th SEA Games in December but the country was not being deterred.

“We are sending the best of the best. This is all about the challenge to the individual. It is not about winning our place in the SEA Games,” he told AFP.

While some sports officials originally suggested just sending a token delegation — or even boycotting the Myanmar games entirely — Tamayo said they chose not to look at the medals as the main reason for competing.

Many Southeast Asian countries have been irked by signs that events were being chosen to help Myanmar athletes win in the games.

Tamayo cited the inclusion of “chinlone”, a native Myanmar ball game unknown in many other countries as well as events like chess and bodybuilding, all areas where the host is perceived as having an edge.

He said Filipinos could not even participate in some of these additional sports as they are not played in their country.

In contrast, sports like tennis and gymnastics were dropped, possibly because the host country does not do well in those areas, Tamayo said.

The Philippines is likely to send athletes to only 27 of the 33 events and a shortage of funds will probably cut the number even further, he said.

Despite this, he expects the country to secure victories in boxing, taekwondo and basketball.

Even if the Philippines fails to do well in the total tally of medals, it could still excel in “the ratio of athletes to medals”, he said.

The 2013 SEA Games will be the first major international event to be held in Myanmar since the end of junta rule in 2011.

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