Lim: Sports bubble cities: When will Cebu be next?

·4 min read

THE pandemic continues to press on but the games have slowly but surely made a comeback around the globe, thanks to a “bubble” adapted in sporting tournaments.

The Tokyo Olympics ended weeks ago with mixed reactions from Tokyoites and the Japanese public, in general. Initially, more than 50 percent of the public were against the Olympics taking place but gradually, as the Games progressed day by day, the trend shifted to a positive note.

This could be attributed to a credible and strong performance of the host country by collecting a big medal haul of 27 Gold, 14 Silver and 17 Bronze and an imposition of a strict health protocol management before, during and after the Games. The much feared pandemic super spreader after the Games, fortunately did not happen.

Here at home, Clark, a thriving metropolis holds the distinction of being the first city in the Philippines to stage a bubble event via the 2020 PBA Philippine Cup in September 2020.

Already, Clark has played host to at least three major events—last year’s PBA Bubble and the Fiba Asia Cup 2021 Qualifiers held in June 16 and the current PBA season.

Amid Covid-19 challenges, the Bases and Conversion Development Authority (BCDA) and its subsidiary Clark Development Corp. (CDC) in coordination with the national government and local governments of Pampanga and Angeles City hosted the historic PBA Bubble.

Patterned after the successful NBA bubble, the setup allowed for the 2020 PBA Season’s only conference to resume after it was shelved in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak and quarantine restrictions around the country. It ran for almost three months.

As to the 2021 Fiba Asia Cup Qualifiers’ third window, it also marked the first time for the country to host a global event during the pandemic.

In the bubble setup, the movement of players, coaches and staff are restricted to the airport, their respective hotels, and the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center where the games are held.

Quest Plus Conference Center, Clark, located at Filinvest Mimosa + Leisure City, Clark Freeport Zone, was home to most delegates in all the sports events.

Besides room and meals, the management made sure that health standard protocols as set by the Covid-19 Inter-Agency Task Force were strictly observed.

But even before the delegates arrived, all the staff, who were also housed in the hotel, had already been tested for Covid-19.

There was a tick list for the safety of visiting athletes and their entourage, organizers and hotel employees:

- Health screening, digital contact tracing and bags disinfection before delegates were allowed entry to the hotel.

- RT-PCR testing and quarantine while waiting for the results; re-swabbing every two, three weeks (PBA) and on the fourth day (Fiba).

- Medical (hotel nurses, CDC Health and Sanitation Office, The Medical City Clark, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Medical Center Clark) and security (hotel security staff, CDC and LGU) personnel working round the clock.

- Packed meals delivered to the rooms or managed buffet serving of meals.

- Regular cleaning and disinfection, appropriate PPE for workers, thermal scanners, foot baths, hand-sanitizing stations etc.

“I think the bubble events were fairly successful because of the close coordination among stakeholders. The BCDA, CDC, PNP, PBA, Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas, and Fiba were in constant communication to ensure the smooth flow of the events,” says Quest Plus Conference Center, Clark PR and communications manager Renzelle “Sey” Ann Palma.

“Of course, our commitment is to make hotel guests feel comfortable and safe during their stay. And so is protecting our 200-plus in-house employees. We made sure everyone stays within the bubble.”

With the pandemic weighing us down, it could take a while before we can see actual games. Until then, we create a controlled environment of accommodations, amenities and venues where athletes can reside and compete away from the general public.

When will we see a bubble event in Cebu? When will local sports associations and venues have the passion and foresight to organize sports events? When will Cebu hotels and resorts reach out to sports event organizers to support and promote sports tourism in Cebu?

Meanwhile, the rest of the country watches as Clark City rises to the occasion, ready for more.

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