SPORTS KEN: Olympic gold medal drought

Many observers and Filipino sports fans alike are not pleased with what they see, read and hear about the goings-on in the country’s sports realm.

They cannot understand why the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) and the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) are at odds when these two agencies are supposed to link arms to produce the very first Olympic gold medal.

Yes, these two sports bodies are feuding over seemingly small issues and concerns but a second, deeper look will reveal that there is more to it than meets the eye.

For the layman and the sports fan to clearly grasp the issue, some definitions and clarifications are in order.

The PSC is the government agency created under RA 6847 in 1990 under the Cory government mandated to fund the preparation and training of Filipino athletes that are taking part in Olympic-sanctioned competitions such as the SEAG, Asian Games and the Olympics.
The POC is the private, non-government organization recognized as a member of the International Olympic Committee representing the country.

The IOC demands that no government intervention is ever allowed, otherwise, a country could be suspended from participation.

Over the years, there were no clear-cut lines as to which body should reign supreme in the sports hierarchy.

While the PSC recognizes that only the POC is recognized by the IOC, the former has visitorial powers over the National Sports Associations that comprise the POC. As funder, the PSC, under the law, must ensure taxpayers’ money spent by the NSAs for their athletes are used judiciously.

The NSAs are NGOs recognized and funded by the government and are run by private, sports-minded individuals.

Before the advent of the POC, there was the Philippine Amateur Athletic Federation (PAAF) that acted as the umbrella organization responsible for the identification, selection and training of national athletes.

Then, the PAAF, which metamorphosed into the present POC, would run to private corporate sponsors. Individually, the NSAs used their connections to raise money for their athletic contingents.

When the PSC came into being, the NSAs and the POC sighed in collective relief.  They need not scrounge for private support anymore because the PSC was awash with taxpayers’ money. Everybody happy, huh?

Many PSC chairmen came and went. Many POC presidents as well came and went.
None of the POC presidents has produced a single gold medal to this date since the country took part in the modern Olympics in 1932 (if my recollection of the date is correct).
This has been the national yearning. If it is any consolation, we have secured three silver medals many years apart – in the 1964 Tokyo Olympics by boxer Anthony Villanueva; in the 1996 Atlanta edition by another boxer, Mansueto “Onyok” Velasco; and by weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz in the recent 2016 Rio Olympics in Brazil.

The bone of contention plaguing Philippine sports now is this: When will a Filipino athlete bring home the elusive first Olympic gold medal?

Many tongues are wagging, asking POC president Peping Cojuangco this nagging question.
The guy has no clear and definite answer, despite holding on to the POC reins for the last sixteen years. Cojuangco, 81 and father of Asian Games equestrian gold medalist Mikee Cojuangco, is the longest-reigning POC chief ever.

On the NSA side, many of their presidents have been there for more than 20 & 25 years. Old foggies, sportwriters say of them.

The government has spent taxpayers’ money funding Filipino athletes for the last 25 years somewhere around a mind-boggling figure of P10B (computed at the conservative annual P400M PSC budget).

Where do you lay the blame on for this Olympic gold medal drought: on the doorsteps of the PSC or the POC? (Email your feedback to GOD BLESS THE PHILIPPINES!