Like the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup, the Asian Games are held every 48 months. This sporting spectacle is significant. Of the planet’s 7 continents, Asia is the largest with 4.5 billion people covering 60 percent of the world’s 7.5 billion people.
The cities of Jakarta and Palembeng in Indonesia are co-hosting the 16-day meet that started with the Opening Ceremony last night and concluding on Sept. 2. A total of 45 nations representing 11,000 athletes are participating. Indonesia was not supposed to host; but in 2014, Vietnam backed out because of financial concerns and Indonesia stepped in.
The Asian Games — also referred to as the “Asiad” — started in 1951 in New Delhi, India. Guess who hosted the 2nd Asian Games? Our very own Manila. Back in 1954 when Ramon Magsaysay was president, we hosted a small contingent of 970 athletes (from 19 countries) and our Philippines ended up 2nd place overall. The main venue in that Asiad 64 years ago remains our main venue today (this shows how much we have NOT progressed): Rizal Memorial, built in 1934. We have not hosted another Asiad since 1954.
For Team Philippines, we are sending a delegation of 281 athletes representing 31 sports in Indonesia. A total of 63 officials will be attending. Our flag bearer? You’ve heard the news: it’s Jordan Clarkson, the 6-foot-4 former teammate of LeBron James whose mom Annette Davis hails from Angeles, Pampanga.
Gilas Pilipinas is, in our basketball-crazy nation, the team to follow. It was a controversial “yes,” “no,” and finally “yes” decision to allow the team to participate. I’m glad Gilas joined. They humiliated Kazakhstan in the first game and, with Clarkson as leader, will play China this Tuesday at 5 p.m.
Sports 5, the media outfit of Manny Pangilinan-owned TV5 and ESPN, is broadcasting most of the Asian Games action through the TV channel and via their live-streaming YouTube channel. (Watching sports on YouTube has become an excellent option. You can watch anytime and there are plenty of shortened versions.)
Mary Joy Tabal, the pride and joy of Cebu, will be joining the 42K road race. The women’s marathon is scheduled seven days from today (August 26) while the Men’s Marathon will be the day before.
As a whole, Team Philippines is (unfortunately) not expected to perform well. Four years ago in Incheon, South Korea, we produced one of our worst-ever showings: only Daniel Caluag won gold (in BMX cycling). We ended up winning 15 medals (one gold, three silver, and 11 bronze) and hope to improve on this performance.
What’s interesting with this Asiad is the inclusion of eSports or electronic sports. Although it’s now a demonstration event, it will be a medal sport in 2022 in Hangzhou, China. Games like “StarCarft II,” “Arena of Valor” and four other video game titles will be played by 18 competing nations. What puzzles me — as an internet-savvy nation — is the exclusion of the Philippines in eSports at the Asiad.