With an additional sport and new Luzon venue, the 26th Milo Little Olympics kicks off its island-hopping sportsfest starting with the Visayan leg on Saturday at the Cebu City Sports Complex.
"Knowing the Filipinos' love for basketball, we have added this to our list of 13 disciplines to our event," said Milo sports executive Robbie de Vera said Tuesday in the Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at Shakey's Malate.
"We see the inclusion of basketball as a compliment and not in competition with our Milo BEST program since the latter caters mostly to private schools while the Little Olympics will be for our basketeers from the public school," fellow Milo Sports executive Andrew Neri pointed out.
Neri added aside from basketball, the other sports lined up are athletics, badminton, chess football, gymnastics, lawn tennis, swimming, table tennis, taekwondo, volleyball, sepak takraw, and scrabble.
Milo consultant Pat Goc-ong, who was also a guest in the session presented by Shakey's and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp., cited the fact "when we conceived the Milo Little Olympics, we conceived this event as a breeding ground for future athletes in international competition."
Goc-ong cited Southeast Asian Games taekwondo champion Japoy Lizardo and former Asian long jump queen Marestella Torres as among the products of the competitions.
Because of the huge turnout in last year's edition, De Vera said they were forced to extend the sportsfest to extra days like the Visayan leg will be on Saturday and Sunday and then on Aug. 24 to 25.
The athletic showcase moves to Cagayan de Oro for the Mindanao leg at the Don Gregorio Pelaez Sports Center from Aug. 23-25, while the Luzon stop will now be conducted on Sep. 6 to 8 at the Baguio City Athletic Bowl.
"From Pangasinan, we decided to make Baguio City the venue of our Luzon leg because we believe more athletes from Luzon, especially from the North, will be able to take part in our event," Neri said.
The NCR leg will be held from Aug. 30-31, Sept. 1, 7 and 8 at the Marikina Sports Complex, while the Oct. 25-27 national finals will return to Cebu, said Goc-ong, adding the regional winners will be brought there for free and will be quartered at a top hotel "as part of their prizes."
The national champions will receive cash incentives and quality Milo gear for their efforts, he said.
All three officials expected a keen fight between Visayas and NCR, the defending champion, for the overall championship.