In hosting mega-events, “apiki ra kaayo”

Decades from today, when the history of Cebu sports is written and immortalized, the name “Edward Hayco” will be one that’s most prominent. As head of the Cebu City Sports Commission for many, many years now, he has produced too-many-to-count accomplishments. World records. International dance meets. Grass-roots programs. No less than the top bigwigs of the Phil. Sports Commission pay homage to the creative strategies of Cebu.

The latest challenge for Ed Hayco and Atty. Ramil Abing, who leads the Cebu Province Sports Commission, is the hosting of the 2017 Phil. National Games or PNG. This is a major effort. Thousands of our archipelago’s best of the best will land in Mactan, kick in Mandaue, bowl at SM, swim in Abellana. The PNG is scheduled this April. This is a highly laudable hosting of the city and province bearing the name of Cebu.

By my question — and this is addressed to the top honchos at the PSC, POC and Dept. of Education (DepEd) — is this: Why such late announcements? Why not give potential hosts three years notice so ample time can be allocated for preparation?

Let’s talk about the Palarong Pambansa. Organized by DepEd, the Palaro started in 1948. That’s 68 years ago. Thanks to my daughter Jana’s participation in tennis, I’ve witnessed two Games: the first in Dipolog and Dapitan when she was in elementary and the second in Laguna when she helped Central Visayas (Region VII) win a couple of medals.

The Palaro is huge. It’s only one week long but every region of this 100-million-strong nation is represented. (Prior to this national meet are the local eliminations: the Unit, City, Provincial and Regional meets. Ours is called the CVIRAA.)

The Palaro, held every summer, involves thousands upon thousands of athletes, volunteers, officials, parents, coaches and government personnel.

Here’s my point: For next year’s 60th edition of the Palarong Pambansa — slated to be held in Antique Province of Panay — you know when the announcement was made?

The Palaro Selection Committee revealed the winning host last November 18. And when will the Palaro be held? This April or May.

This means that, from the time it was announced to the time of the actual event, only five to six months are appropriated for the hosts to prepare. (The exact Palaro date hasn’t even been announced yet!) Unbelievable.

The Palaro selection committee, if my research is correct, received the formal bids only last August, they announced the winning city last month and, voila, 170 days later you get the organize the country’s largest tournament.

In my simple analysis, the host city or province should be given at least three years to prepare. Apart from organizing all the manpower and volunteers, all the billeting requirements, the food catering systems, transportation and logistical needs, the biggest task and the one requiring the longest time is infrastructure. How can one host properly if you don’t give them enough time to plan, design and build? A rubberized oval can’t be constructed by a magician.

Take the Olympics. For the 2020 Tokyo Games, the announcement was made in 2013 — seven years prior to the planet’s largest sports party.

With the 2017 Palaro, three major cities initially joined the bidding: Iloilo, Bacolod and Cebu. One after the other, each Visayan city backed out.

I’m not privy to the reasons why our very own Cebu City opted not to join. I was one of many who voiced support because the only times we hosted were in 1954 and in 1994. You bet, it’s about time!

Maybe the lack of time and preparation (“apiki ra kaayo”) were reasons? And there’s always the unwritten dictum among city mayors that says: Give chance to others. This is not a way to demean the smaller cities but a way for them to receive substantial funds for infrastructure projects (many of which won’t be constructed if not for a large event like the Palaro).

This “apiki” practice has to stop. Let’s hope Manila listens.

John Pages

By John Pages

I've been a sports columnist since 1994. First, in The Freeman newspaper under "Tennis Is My Game." Then, starting in 2003, with Sun.Star Cebu under the name "Match Point." Happy reading!

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