OVER a year before the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, the arnis federation met at the Waterfront Hotel in Cebu City. I remember two things in that meeting. They were still trying to finalize the number of events -- and gold medals -- for Arnis and the Philippine Eskrima Kali Arnis Federation (Pekaf) was confident of winning most of it and the second was that Vietnam, the next host, has promised to include arnis in the edition it would host this year.
I was reminded of that meeting when I read a post online that perhaps it would be best to cancel this year’s Southeast Asian Games. No one is sure if the Tokyo Olympics would push through and if it does, well you can imagine that the dwindling sponsorship money would be poured into it.
But that’s not what got me thinking back about the meeting. There was a suggestion that the SEA Games should be cancelled until we’ve removed all the idiosyncrasies out of it. One of which is of course the need for a promise to have a certain sport included in the next edition.
Sure, there are demo and new sports that are added in the Olympics, but they are not the same as the here-this-year-but-gone-next-edition new sports of the SEA Games.
Take arnis, for example. The event is only in the SEA Games whenever the Philippines hosts it. Ditto with pencak silat, chinlone or whatever indigenous sport there is. They pop up now and then because they give the host that chance to pad their medal tally, thereby justifying all the money spent for the hosting.
That in the next SEA Games cycle the sport doesn’t make the leap from indigenous to SEA Games-wide is brushed aside.
The sports officials know there’s a solution to this but sometimes I think they are unwilling to do it because no country may be willing to host the SEA Games again should they lose that advantage.
Look at taekwondo. After it became a regular event, concerns of how South Korea would dominate the games were brushed aside when during one Olympic cycle, the International Federation decided that at most, a country can only have a maximum of four qualifiers.
We could do that for the indigenous SEA Games events for a few cycles. Say arnis, for example, I know most countries don’t bother to send entries because they know they’d lose the gold. But say, for example, the SEA Games has 20 events but each country is limited to only 10 entries.
That removes the Philippines’ advantage, right? But it also will prod other countries to send entries and that will at least spread the sport.
It’s 2021, shouldn’t this be the time that we fix the SEA Games?