No apparent ‘dagdag-bawas’ in 30th SEA Games
Now 60 years old, the Southeast Asian Games remains a regional picnic of first, seven and then 11 countries eagerly waiting to pull a fast one over the other.
Three months from now, host Philippines will have all the chances to execute its own version of the dreaded “dagdag-bawas” routine of erasing some Olympic sports in favor of indigenous events.
The scheme’s as old as the SEA Games itself, with the host country harnessing its medal harvest by introducing exotic, native games foreign to rivals breathing down its neck.
In the 2017 SEA Games won by host Malaysia, the Philippines placed sixth.
But other than introducing arnis—dubbed the Philippines’ true national sport that will stake 20 gold medals for this year’s Games—organizers seem not so keen on trying out the old add-subtract plot to top the overall standings.
Instead, the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee, Philippine Olympic Committee and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) appear to have retained a full Olympic sports calendar, and then some.
The collaborators have also included 16 new regional games including arnis and jujitsu, individual sports like chess and team sports like e-sports to give the locals a sporting chance to capture more gold medals than the rest of the field.
Team Philippines will likewise rely on its strength in numbers—a projected 1,250 athletes and 250 coaches and essential staff—that will be all over the 53 venues featuring 530 events in 57 sports in order to duplicate its first-place finish in the 2005 SEA Games it last hosted.
For the 30th edition of the subcontinental sporting event set on Nov. 15 to Dec. 11, local national sports associations (NSAs) are required to select only medalists in the Asian and SEA Games and in international competitions for this year’s Philippine contingent.
But athletes with medal potential in the biennial competitions will merit inclusion as long as the NSAs can show their record of participation in overseas sorties.
Since there is no basis, performance-wise in previous SEA and Asian Games for the sports to be introduced for the first time, the organizers seem to have taken an inclusive stance for hopefuls striving to be selected.
Bets chosen for the newly introduced disciplines will join the final Filipino delegation—easily the biggest the country will assemble ever for a multination sports contest.
“With our numbers, there is a good chance we will win the overall crown,” said PSC chair William Ramirez, also Team Philippines’ SEA Games chief of mission.
But Ramirez said there is no mistaking the fact that local athletes have trained hard in competitions here and abroad.
While a record 11,000 athletes will compete for mere bragging rights, this year’s SEA Games will be true to its traditional aim of fostering amity and cooperation through sports in a region of 11 nations.
“We win as one,” declares the Games’ mantra.
Despite criticism, the Philippines’ continued participation in an inferior athletic meet is justified by sports leaders as a means to sharpen focus and training for the Asian Games and eventually the Olympics.