PH to replace Obiena as flag bearer due to protocol changes | Inquirer Sports
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PH to replace Obiena as flag bearer due to protocol changes

By: - Reporter / @junavINQ
/ 04:34 PM July 13, 2021
EJ Obiena pole vault sea games

FILE –Filipino Pole Vaulter Ernest John Obiena. MARIANNE BERMUDEZ/ INQUIRER

MANILA, Philippines–With the stringent health protocols and safety measures imposed in the Tokyo Olympics, the Philippine Olympic Committee has decided to replace pole vaulter Ernest John Obiena as the country’s male flag-bearer.

POC president Rep. Abraham “Bambol’’ Tolentino said Tokyo organizers have required athletes designated to carry their nation’s flag to arrive in the Japanese capital 48 hours before the opening ceremony on July 23.

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Traveling from Formia, Italy, Tolentino said Obiena would arrive in Tokyo just a few hours prior to the parade of countries on the same day.

“We have been informed that changes happen every day, so we have to adjust with the strict measures,’’ said Tolentino during the Philippine Sportswriters Association forum on Tuesday.

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Aside from the 48-hour window enforced by Tokyo organizers, Tolentino explained that Obiena might experience confusion during arrival where athletes, coaches and officials have been forced to wait for at least five hours at the airport.

“Even if we ask that EJ be allowed to carry the flag, he might not still make it due to that bottleneck at the airport,” said Tolentino during the forum sponsored by San Miguel, Pagcor, Go For Gold, PLDT, Milo, Braska and Amelie Hotel.

The opening ceremony is scheduled at 8 p.m., but the designated flag-bearers would be fetched at the Athletes Village two hours before the start of the parade.

“I already informed the track and field association (Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association) about it. We’ll announce the replacement within the next two days. I have to talk to the coaches and officials of the athletes first,’’ said Tolentino.

Judoka Kiyomi Watanabe has been designated as female flag-bearer for Team Philippines. Joining her during the parade of nations are Philippine chef de mission Nonong Araneta, swimming president Lani Velasco, judo head Dave Carter, gymnastics chief Cynthia Carrion, boxing coach Nolito Velasco and skateboarding coach Daniel Bautista.

Available as male flag-bearers due to the proximity of their competition schedules from the opening rites are boxers Eumir Marcial and Carlo Paalam, golfer Juvic Pagunsan, swimmer Luke Gebbie and air rifle shooter Jayson Valdez.

Tolentino, however, said the arrival schedules of these athletes would be the decider since they have to comply with their respective activity plans for the duration of their stay in Tokyo as approved by the organizers.

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Apart from the 19 athletes, Team Philippines will have a manpower of 60 to 70 people during the Olympics, including coaches, nutritionists, physiologists, officials and health protocol personnel.

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“Just believe in yourselves and we will win the gold (medal) as one,’’ Tolentino told the athletes during Monday’s briefing.

According to Tolentino, swab testing will be done on a daily basis during the Games which will be played without local and foreign spectators while the athletes and coaches are restricted to travel only from the Athletes Village to the competition/training venues vice versa.

“Despite all the challenges, our athletes and officials are all prepared. It’s now just a matter of execution,’’ said Tolentino.

Araneta will head the six-man support group set to leave on July 14 for Tokyo to put up the country’s secretariat at the Conrad Hotel.

The biggest bulk of the contingent will arrive in Tokyo on July 18 with four athletes—taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa, weightlifter Elreen Ando, rower Cris Nievarez and Valdez coming from Manila.

The other 15 athletes will depart from their respective training camps overseas.

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