Unfazed by the challenges they’ve been encountering all along and the tons of pressure resting on their shoulders days leading to the country’s hosting of the Southeast Asian Games, the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee has remained steadfast and confident it could deliver the best staging of the biennial meet.
Instead, PHISGOC chief operating officer Tats Suzara is looking forward on the things they could accomplish, including the historic opening ceremonies which will be held in an indoor stadium for the first time in SEA Games history.
“This is the first time that the opening ceremony of the SEA Games will be held in an indoor stadium. Normally, even in the Olympics or the Asian Games, it is usually at the athletics stadium. It’s the first time that the SEA Games will be held indoors at the Philippine Arena. This is good because when it rains, we’re covered,” Suzara told mediamen during the launching of the Sama-Sama Sa SEA Games held at the Raffles Hotel in Makati.
This means that there were will be no fireworks to be displayed as this won’t be ideal in an indoor stadium. So as the lighting of the cauldron.
The organizers came up with a better alternative of staging these significant happenings simultaneously on separate venues.
“The question that will be asked there, ‘bakit walang fireworks’? We’re doing everything digital. But simultaneously we’re doing cauldron in New Clark City live. So dalawa yan. The highlight of the lighting of the cauldron will be live. We will have spectators, public viewing at the New Clark City with the LGUs there. It will be a very memorable opening ceremony,” added Suzara.
According to Suzara, the opening ceremony which will be held at the 55,000-seater Philippine Arena, is patterned after the Super Bowl Half Time Show where big entertainers will spice up the show.
“The program, however, is a secret. There were five companies which bid for this production and we awarded it to the company who did the opening ceremonies of the London Olympics and for the Asian Games last year in Jakarta. It will be a very memorable opening ceremony,” added Suzara.
Despite allegations of overpricing in budget allocations for the hosting of the Games, Suzara and his group have remained committed they could get the job done.
With the government throwing its full support, there’s simply no turning back as they look forward to the milestones the country is about to accomplish.
“Two years ago, when PHISGOC chairperson, Honorable Speaker Allan Peter Cayetano pushed me to help him for the hosting of the SEA Games. He was still serving as Secretary of the Foreign Affairs at that time. But he already shared his SEA Games master plan. The sportsman in him had a vision of bringing the athletes to greater glory by hosting the SEA Games, but it’s more than just that,” said Suzara.
Suzara said PHISGOC made sure this year’s event will be the biggest SEA Games event ever.
“Despite the challenges, PHISGOC has remained steadfast in our objective to host the most remarkable SEA Games in history — 56 sports, 513 events. The first time in the SEA Games. We want this to become the biggest. We also want it to be the best hosted as we’ve seen the full support of the Philippine government with His Excellency President Rodrigo Duterte continuing with his build, build, build program,” added Suzara.
President Duterte, according to Suzara, was even determined on developing world-class facilities Philippine athletes and other SEA Games participants could enjoy.
“We now have an athletics stadium that is considered world class and certified as Class 1 facility. We now have an aquatics center classified by FINA, as Class 1 also. We would like to invite you to come and see our Athletes’ Village. It’s the first Athletes’ Village in the history of the Philippines. The Athletes’ Village, will have a dinning hall simulation and we will test the food there. Around 2,000 athletes will be catered,” said Suzara.
Hosting a multi-sporting event such as the SEA Games, has never been easy and Suzara could only share his group’s struggles along the way.
“All the pains and the hard work of PHISGOC is at my back, but we have to show that we can host this biggest SEA Games ever. Hindi mo maiwasan siyempre, may mga negative pa rin, but we just ignored it. Because there’s no truth about it. We have to move forward. You have to imagine, we have 9,000 volunteers from Clark, Subic, Metro Manila, Tagaytay and Calatagan. It’s not so easy,” said Suzara.
“I’ll just give you an example. Polo is a huge sport, but is the most expensive sport in the SEA Games. The government is not spending for the horses. The Princess of Brunei brought 50 horses. Mikee Romero and Iñigo Zobel are also lending their horses to the foreign delegates and this will start on Sunday. They don’t expect anything.”
Like the other multi-sporting events, logistics have become more challenging for the organizers.
“Logistics have been a nightmare. Hindi lang naman dito. Even in the Olympic Games, when I was in Rio Olympics, our hotel is two hours from the competition venue. People walked in the opening ceremonies because no cars and buses were allowed. So, you could imagine how 56 sports from different venues,” said Suzara.
“But we will do this. With all your help, all your support. Tomorrow, baka tapos na SEA Games, yun ang sinasabi ko sa staff ko. You wake up tomorrow and the SEA Games is done and you will appreciate all the hard work. I’d like to thank the President who give this push to have our new stadium which is considered as world class.”