Barong-clad PH athletes formalize Olympic stint in Rio

RIO DE JANEIRO – Amid a festive atmosphere, the Philippine flag was formally raised Tuesday inside the Athletes Village as more delegates from the participating countries poured in only three days before the opening ceremony.

The Filipino delegation, made up of athletes and officials number around 20, arrived at the Olympic Park in their native “barong” to join three other countries, including Japan and Panama, in the affair that lasted over an hour.

The Philippine national anthem was played as the flag was raised.

Filipino athletes, led by three-time Olympians Hidilyn Diaz and Marestella Tores, held their right hands on their chest as the flag was raised.

The mayor of the Athletes Village, two-time Olympic medalist Janeth Arcain, welcomed the delegates to Brazil as dancers dressed in leafy costumes provided the entertainment.

Arcain, who won bronze and silver medals for the Brazilian women’s basketball team in the 1996 and 2000 Olympics, welcomed the foreign delegates and told them to consider the Athletes Village and Rio de Janeiro their home for the next few weeks.

She spoke about the importance of sports and “how it can bring people together.” She also reminded everybody that “fair play is the most important thing in the field of play.”

As the delegates were marched away, Brazilians dancers provided a festive mood.

Filipino chef-de-mission Jose Romasanta were joined by Philippine Olympic Committee officials Col. Jeff Tamayo and Julian Camacho in the flag raising. They presented Arcain a replica of the famous Philippine jeepney.

“To begin with it started officially the entry and participation of the Philippine delegation in this Rio Oympics,” said Romasanta.

It was his idea to have the athletes and officials wear their “barong” for the flag-raising ceremony. He said he noticed in the past that Filipinos came as they were, and that some were in track suits while the others came in suits.

“It’s like we were not treating the event formally. It’s the raising of the Philippine flag and we should represent our flag the way we should,” he said.

“Now everybody knows that they’re a part of it – from the athletes to the officials. They are part of this Olympics. The next thing now is for them to compete,” he said.

Even foreign delegates were impressed with the Filipinos in their “barong.”

“Definitely we made an impression in treating this as something very important. We showed everybody our national costume,” said Romasanta.

“We stole the show. We were very formal and at the same time we were festive,” he said.