Dayrit, former POC president, dies at 69
Former Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) president Celso “Cito’’ Dayrit always had a ready smile and a firm handshake each time you cross his path, simple gestures that make you feel important.
The great leader and mentor will be badly missed by the Philippine sports community after Dayrit passed away on Wednesday night due to COVID-19. He was 69.
Dayrit, who served as POC president from 1999 to 2004 and fencing president for more than a decade, had an extensive archive of accomplishments and wore multiple hats, including the vice presidency of the Olympic Council of Asia.
“It’s a big loss to us in the sports community and to me personally as [he was] one of my mentors. He was a big help to me in foreign relations, especially in the SEAG (Southeast Asian Games) Federation,’’ said POC president Abraham “Bambol’’ Tolentino.
When the Philippines hosted the SEA Games in 2019, Dayrit was the SEAG Federation Council executive committee chair and was reelected four times as president of the Fencing Confederation of Asia since 2005.
“Philippine sports lost a wise man today. He is one of my very first friends in sports and I have always admired his deep understanding of ‘Olympism’ and sports dynamics in the country. He will be truly missed,’’ said Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chair William Ramirez.
Book on ‘Olympism’
So well-versed was Dayrit in ‘Olympism’ that he published his own book in 2003—the Olympic Movement in the Philippines, an authoritative handbook and reference for budding national sports association officials.
“He’s one of the great leaders that Philippine sports had, both locally and internationally,’’ said POC chair Steve Hontiveros, who even exchanged text messages with Dayrit more than a week ago.
“Cito was already in the hospital. I told him that I would be praying for his complete recovery and good health,’’ added Hontiveros, a long-time friend of Dayrit since the term of Gov. Jose Sering as POC chief in the 1980s.
Dayrit’s father, Don Francisco Dayrit Sr., is considered the father of fencing in the country after founding the Philippine Amateur Fencers Association, which became the Philippine Fencing Association that Celso headed.
He was an honorary member of the International Fencing Federation and was inducted to the Hall of Fame, serving in the federation’s executive committee from 2004 to 2020.
“I am deeply saddened to hear this. This is a great loss to our sport and painful to those who knew and loved him,’’ said Philippine Fencing Association and Ormoc City Mayor Richard Gomez. “He was my mentor as a fencing athlete and president.’’
Dayrit also was appointed commissioner of the PSC in 1993 during the administration of President Ramos and remained involved with the Olympic Solidarity Movement of the International Olympic Committee even after his term as POC president.
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