Eighty seven days remain before the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Yes, the year is 2021 and the Olympics is “2020” because the virus that started in 2019.
The Japanese are scared. In a recent survey, a whopping 72 percent are opposed to holding the Games; 39.2 percent of respondents want the Olympics cancelled and 32.8 percent want it postponed again.
Why? Isn’t the Olympics the pride and glory of the host nation? And hasn’t Japan spent a gargantuan amount to be ready for the Opening Ceremonies on July 23?
Yes and yes. The Tokyo Olympics, originally budgeted at $7.5 billion, has ballooned to $35 billion — making it the most expensive Summer Games ever.
Then why, despite the 3.77 trillion Japanese Yen that the hosts are spending, are they anxious?
COVID-19. This is the unseen opponent that’s petrified the Japanese and the IOC. It’s more devious and foxy than any rival; more cunning than any assassin the world has encountered.
Consider this: Japan has the world’s oldest population. Japan has 126 million residents and 28 percent are aged 65 or above. This means that nearly one in three Japanese are senior citizens — the most vulnerable sector in this fight against the virus.
To make matters worse, Japan has a very low vaccination rate. Despite it owning the title of “the world’s third-largest economy ,” Japan ranks at the bottom of the vaccination ladder.
Only 1.3 percent of Japanese have been vaccinated thus far. This is exactly the same percentage with the Philippines. But considering how wealthy Japan is versus our archipelago (Japan’s GDP is $5 trillion vs. our $377 billion — we are 7.5% the size of Japan’s economy), you would expect that the Pfizer, Moderna and AZ vaccines would have landed sooner in the shores of Osaka, Sapporo, Nagoya — all 47 of Japan’s prefectures.
Inexplicably, the answer is No. This has caused a major worry with the nearing of the Olympics, which run from July 23 to August 8.
Over 11,000 athletes are expected to arrive in Japan’s capital. If you add the coaches, officials, team members and entourage, this number will enlarge. Because of the pandemic, the IOC has placed a limit: no more than 90,000 athletes, etc. will arrive in Japan. No foreign spectators are allowed.
Here’s another complication: the athletes are not required to be vaccinated prior to their arrival. I say “complication” because this is a big gamble on IOC’s part.
I know, I know; vaccination, anywhere around the world, is not compulsory; but this creates a huge risk for the Games.
With 90,000 incoming guests from 205 countries and airports — all arriving at the Haneda or Narita airports in Tokyo, it’s a huge possibility that some of those individuals will carry the coronavirus.
In the Athlete’s Village where they are confined in close quarters, can you imagine the scenario if a Covid-19 outbreak happens?
One super-spreader can inflict considerable damage on the Olympics. Athletes may be barred. Events postponed or canceled. Zero spectators allowed.
If the Academy Awards, which unfold tomorrow in Hollywood, were to give an Oscars trophy to the category, “Best Sport this Covid-19,” the runaway winner isn’t… running.
It’s cycling. On Sundays from 6 to 9 A.M., try climbing from JY Square to Marco Polo and you’ll witness a spectacle:
Hundreds of two-wheeled vehicles crawling upwards to Busay. Grinding, sweating, pushing one leg after another to encircle that pedal, they’re gripping that handlebar tight. Many are painted with multi-colored jerseys, all body-hugging. The bikers are wearing gloves, arm sleeves and Sidi shoes with cleats; water bottles and reflector stickers adorn the two-wheelers. Their bikes range from MTBs to Giant fat bikes to Ebikes to an S-Works Venge that costs P549,500.
Biking means freedom. It means the wind blowing in your face. It means happiness — “You can’t be sad while riding a bicycle.” It means social interaction during this anti-social time. Biking doesn’t have walls. It means exercising minus the pushing-and-elbowing of basketball and running’s foot injuries.
I love biking because, on flat asphalt, it’s effortless. On downhills, flying at 42-kph, it’s horrifying. And while your bike is pointed to the sky and you’re on your softest gear and your body is rocking side to side and you stand to deliver extra oomph to your leg-powered vehicle, it’s punishing and painful but fulfilling.
Biking during this Covid-19 year is a winner because people long for the outdoors and free space. Trapped in our homes during those ECQ days, pedaling offers immunity from isolation.
I love cycling because of the 7Fs: Friends. Freedom. Fitness. Free. Forward. Fun. Fast.
PANDAY CHALLENGE. Biking is also for another F: Females. Although majority of riders are men, an increasing percentage are women.
Take the “Panday Challenge” of Cebu City Councilor Joel Garganera. I’ve known Cons Joel for many years now and we’ve ran countless kilometers together but one vivid memory of us together happened in a Pipti-Pipti Triathlon event in Catmon in 2009. We both swam alongside each other and started the bike leg in tandem, exiting the Bachao Beach Resort — when Joel’s bike chain suddenly broke. We stopped, tried to fix the chain (to no avail), and ended up laughing. That was a memorable experience.
With the Panday Challenge, this is like the AWUM (All Women Ultra Marathon) — also co-organized by Hon. Garganera — except that it’s biking and the distance is not 50K. It’s scheduled this April 27 (Tuesday) and is named “Kadaugan sa Sugbo Cycling Event.” The climb is from JY Square to Willy’s; it’s open to women only and it’s for free. The first 150 to reach Willy’s will be given a free jersey.
BIKE QUOTES: “You can’t buy happiness but you can buy a bike — and that’s kind of the same thing.”
Albert Einstein: “Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
“A bad day on a mountain bike beats a good day at the office.”
“Four wheels move the body. Two wheels move the soul.”
Cleevan Kayne Alegres circumnavigated Olango Island last week. He did not walk, paddle-board or sail around Olango — he swam all of it: 25,420 meters of swimming.
“My farthest distance before the Olango swim was 14 kms.,” he told me in our 28-minute-long talk last Thursday.
Cleevan’s ultimate goal is to encircle the entire Mactan island — a 40 to 45-km. swim. — later this month to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Mactan.
With the 25-K swim in Olango, he told me, “Kalit-kalit ra to because I needed to swim a longer distance.”
Starting at 3:30 p.m. last April 4, Cleevan completed the trek by swimming for 9 hours and 59 minutes. He had to stop for two hours at the latter part of the expedition because he was separated from his accompanying pump boat.
Starting at Sta. Rosa port, he ended at the same spot at 3:30 a.m. He swam a big portion of the 25K in total darkness.
“I swam at night because of the tides,” he said. “I studied the tide chart and currents and they’re favorable at night.”
While most, if not all of us, are afraid of swimming the open seas at night, Cleevan felt relaxed when submerged in darkness.
“I’m used to spear-fishing in the evenings and night-diving,” said Cleevan, whose house sits right beside the waters of Mactan (behind J Park Resort). “I’m not scared of the dark while swimming.”
He did not wear a full-body wetsuit but opted for the barest of barest: swimming trunks.
“Swimming for 10 hours, there were plenty of jellyfish, but I just ignored them,” said Cleevan, who believes his achievement was 40 percent physical and 60 percent mental.
Cleevan was accompanied by a team. At portions of the route, he was joined by swimmers Jason Earl Bilangdal, Ryan Galo and Reinwald Ebora. There were three stand-up paddler teams that included his girlfriend Gillan Mae Sayson, his sister Eaa, and friends Saysay Silawan, Janjan Cañete and Tado Amit. A pumpboat glided nearby.
Cleevan did not eat during the 25-K challenge. He did not take caffeinated drinks because of a heart condition that started when he was a baby; for two months after he was born, he was in the incubator. Today, his heart palpitates if he takes coffee.
The only nutrition that fueled him was the supplement brand Vitargo, recommended by Atty. Ingemar Macarine, the “Pinoy Aquaman.” During the swim, Cleevan took sips of the carbo-electrolytes supplement every 20 to 25 minutes.
Swimming is a lonely sport. I asked Cleevan how he survived the mental anguish of floating at sea for 10 hours.
“I thought of my Veterinary studies,” said the fifth year junior clinician at SWU-Phinma. “While swimming, I tried to remember the lessons and kept on repeating them. I also sang, in my mind, my favorite songs. (These included the songs Inspector Mills and Superman, Five for Fighting.)
“I counted 1 to 1,000. I thought about my future plans. I prayed to the Lord to help my tiredness. At the 20K mark, I experienced hallucination and thought that a dolphin was swimming beside me…”
Part 2 (published last April 18, 2021)
Cleevan Kayne Alegres stands 5-foot-3 and weighs 121 lbs. When asked in an interview after he completed the 25-km. Olango Island swim what he wanted to be called, he paused, thought of a nickname and said… The Little Merman!
Bright. The Little Mermaid, as know from the Disney movie, is derived from an 1837 book by the Danish author Hans Christian Andersen. It was a fairy tale.
On April 25, it will be another fairy tale — this time, a real life tale of Cebu’s very own “Little Merman” attempting to encircle Mactan Island using only his God-given legs and arms. The around-Mactan swim is expected to cover the length of between 40 to 45 kms.
Swimming for 40+ kms. — this sounds ridiculous. If you consider that a marathon road race spans 42 kms. — I’ve done a bunch of those runs and they’re tough — how much more in a horizontal position.
OLANGO SWIM. Two weeks ago (on April 4) when Cleevan swam the 10-hour-long adventure around Olango Island, he experienced moments of hallucination.
“A dolphin was swimming beside me,” Cleevan said. “It was past 1 A.M. and I had been swimming for over 20 kms. It was only later that I realized that they were only coconuts floating nearby.”
Cleevan’s 25K “practice swim” provided him with several lessons before his 42K “main event” on April 25.
Lesson No. 1: music helps.
“A boombox is important,” he said. “I’ll ask my companions on the paddle board and pump boat to play music during the swim. Swimming in the middle of the night and for many hours.. I need music.”
Bright head lamps so his path won’t be too dark, said Cleeven, will also help.
With the swim pacers, Cleevan plans to ask four swimmers to accompany him. But this time, instead of asking them to join him at the start, they’ll form a relay team with each pacer swimming eight kms. The ones who’ve enlisted as pacers include Reinwalk Ebora, Albert Godinez, Ryan Galo and Jaron Earl Bilangdal.
ADVOCACY. When I spoke to Cleevan for nearly half an hour 10 days ago, he was very passionate about the reason for this exploit.
“My advocacy is to raise awareness and get rid of the garbage at sea,” said Cleevan. “I live right beside the waters; our house is very near the J Park Resort. Where I live in Maribago, I am able to collect as much as two sacks of garbage everyday.”
Cleevan will embark on his 42K marathon swim at 5 p.m. on April 25 — near the 500th anniversary of the Battle of Mactan. It’s a symbolic date. But the bigger symbol that the 25-year-old is attempting to achieve is this: We need to clean our seas and not throw plastics, junk or rubbish.
Cleevan wants to make sure that his swim will include passing along the Mactan Channel. While he previously only wore swim trunks, this time, for that stretch, he will have to wear a full suit. The reason is shocking and depressing.
“Hugaw, baho, lubog, daghan mag lutaw-lutaw bisag unsa, ang lapok itom pas black,” Cleevan said, of the Mactan Channel.
Let’s hope that the swim of Cleevan Alegres will not only be historic but will help raise awareness to clean our seas and save the oceans.
I’m not a gamer. Unlike my youngest brother Michael, whose favorite is Call of Duty: Warzone, my last gaming console was Atari. Ha-ha. Yes, Pong, Pac-man and Space Invaders!
Yesterday, I did a quick Google search on the sports that have thrived since the world changed 12 months ago. Not surprising, the No. 1 answer is Esports.
The “e” stands for “electronic” and it’s a sport involving multiple gamers playing video games. Before Covid-19 struck, a large stadium would be jampacked with overflowing fans watching a Jumbotron. This time, the games are happening remotely — at home.
Gaming is a huge, huge, huge business. Of the planet’s 7.9 billion people, about 57 percent have access to the internet. And of that 4.5 billion Web users, a huge 2.81 billion play computer games.
The global video game industry is $159 billion. How huge is that? It’s four times the box office (movie) revenues and three times the music industry market.
COVID-19 has increased the number of gamers worldwide. Told to strictly follow stay-at-home protocols, the Internet Protocol (IP) has ruled. The length of time people spend online playing games has substantially increased during this pandemic.
For Esports, this is good. It is officially a sport. During the 2019 Southeast Asian Games in Manila, a total of six medals were at stake. At the end of the six-day tournament held at the Filoil Flying V Centre in San Juan, our Filipino e-gamers collected the most hardware: We won 3 gold, 2 silver and 1 bronze medals.
The games played included Arena of Valor, Starcraft II, Dota 2, Mobile Legends: Bang Bang, Hearthstone and Tekken 7. The popular “NBA2k” game was planned to be one of the titles but a license was not secured before the game’s start.
Later this year in Vietnam, when our ASEAN neighbor hosts the SEA Games, they will offer 10 medals for Esports, including CrossFire and FIFA Online 4.
The Olympics is not ready yet. Esport aficionados, knowing how popular video games are in Japan, pushed to have Esports included in the Tokyo Olympics. But the IOC declined. Had the Games pushed through last year, an accompanying event (“The Intel World Open”) was to have been staged in Tokyo coinciding with the Olympics.
Here in Cebu, I remember an event I attended in September 2014. My good friend Brian Lim, an entrepreneur-triathlete, was then the chairman of the Phil. E-Sports Organization (PESO).
Brian helped organize the event, “eSports Festival: Rigs. Cosplay. Games.” that attracted over 500 participants at the Cebu Trade Hall of the SM City Cebu.
Sven Macoy Schmid, an avid gamer, wrote this in his blog, “I was stunned by how many spectators the event drew… there was the cosplay event, the rig competition and the beautiful creatures called ‘booth babes.’”
Brain Lim explained to me the attraction of this game.
“ESports is the modern-day equivalent of Chess,” he said. “It’s a mind sport but without any physical boundaries as it can be played across the internet and across different genres or game types.”
The NBA Playoffs won’t commence until May 22 and the NBA Finals won’t be contested by the grappling of two squads until July 8 but, this early, we might as well erect a giant Times Square billboard and posterize the inevitable.
Brooklyn Nets vs. Los Angeles Lakers.
The NBA is composed of 30 teams and we can debate and wrangle over the merits and handicaps of each team. But given what transpired in the last 72 hours, the obvious has become unmistakable.
Kevin Durant. James Harden. Kyrie Irving. Blake Griffin. And, early this week, the disembarkation of LaMarcus Aldridge, a 7-time NBA All-Star. This “Brooklyn Five” combine for a mouth-watering 40 total NBA All-Star appearances.
“Life is unfair; and it’s not fair that life is unfair,” someone once commented.
Steve Nash, the Nets’ coach, besieged with questions on the unfairness of his collection of superstars, replied: “It’s not like we did anything illegal so I don’t know what we’re supposed to do, not try to add to our roster and just sit pat? The idea of this league is try to put together the best team you can put together. And that doesn’t guarantee you anything in life.”
Steve, it guarantees you a free pass to the NBA Finals where a Hollywood cast awaits..
LeBron James and Anthony Davis. The duo merge to establish the most formidable pairing in Lakers history since Kobe and Shaq. The Lakers are the defending champs and, with a line-up this 2021 that includes Schroder, Montrezl, Kuzma, Caruso, KCP, Gasol, Matthews and THT, they were pre-installed as the title favorites.
Until LBJ and AD got injured. Until the “Brooklyn Five” was formed.
So, what counter move did Rob Pelinka, the VP of the Lakers, perform? He convinced a 6-foot-10, 279-lb. giant with a 7-foot-5 wingspan named Andre Drummond to transfer — like LeBron did — from Cleveland to L.A.
Drummond fills a gaping hole at, literally, the center of the Lakers’ formation. He is a rebounding specialist, pulling down rebounds like a farmer would pick apples from a tree. Drummond has led the league in rebounding four times and is the league’s all-time leader in seasons with at least 1,000 points, 1,000 rebounds, 100 steals and 100 blocks. The big, who was born in New York but is moving West to help Los Angeles, has achieved that four times.
“So much of the playoffs are about the paint, you know, and he’s a physical force down there,” said Orlando coach Steve Clifford, of Drummond. “He’s a great rim protector and one of the great offensive rebounders in our game. He could win one or two playoff games for you just for this physicality and size alone.”
So, in this impending brawl between Brooklyn and L.A., who’s the winner?
First, the losers: The 28 other teams who will be left salivating at the sight of the Nets-Lakers dispute. This will surely be one of the most anticipated NBA Finals in history. This is a war between the Justice League vs. the Avengers.
The winners? You and me and all of us, basketball fanatics.