Mendoza: This early, we are not champs anymore

Al Mendoza
·2 min read

THE Covid-19 pandemic is not stopping Vietnam’s rush to score an unhampered victory in the 2021 SEA Games. As host of the 11-nation conclave, Vietnam is almost the shoo-in winner.

Sadly, that has always been the case in the biennial gathering: the host almost assured of bringing home the bacon. Only four times since the Games’ inception in 1959 did a visiting country win the crown in the event’s last 13 editions.

This early, Vietnam has killed 15 sporting disciplines. If that’s not an unabashed display of greed, what is?

Ironically, sportsmanship died on the day the SEA Games was born 61 years ago. It assured a host virtual victory even before the starting gun is fired.

Monico Puentevella, the country’s weightlifting president, said it best when he told the Inquirer’s June Navarro: “Vietnam will also win the next SEA Games hands down. There’s nothing new. It has always been the friendly festival SEA Games.”

And if the Vietnamese are that contemptuous of us, I can’t blame them. We routed them by 49 gold medals last year. All because the Philippines, if truth be told, had loaded the 2019 calendar with events it was heavily favored to win. All Vietnam and the rest of the opposition could do was wail in frustration.

From 56 sports in last year’s SEA Games, with the Philippines running away with a whopping winning total of 149 gold medals, Vietnam has chopped the calendar next year down to just 36.

The deleted 15 disciplines produced for us 56 gold medals that keyed the country’s 2019 victory. One of the cancelled events was arnis, our national sport, which harvested the largest gold haul last year.

Among other gold-producing events for us in 2019 scrapped by Vietnam for the 2021 edition were triathlon, skateboarding, modern pentathlon and rugby.

We are, indeed, in dire straight. Is the situation solvable?

“Don’t even think the SEA Games Federation will lift a finger to help us because we got all that we wanted last year,” said Puentevella, the former chairman of the Philippine Olympic Committee.

Greed is not forever.