Friday, October 22, 2021

Lim: Sports tourism is alive: It only takes two to bubble

Sports Tourism Highlights

While the world holds its breath and focuses its attention on Tokyo in the coming weeks, even the most optimistic have apprehensions if the 2020 Summer Olympics, delayed for a year, will ever begin on July 23. Exhale.

The International Olympic Council (IOC) and the games machinery is ready on the the blocks. The Japanese Government and the Tokyo Games Host Committee (TGHC), though brimming with steadfastness and rudimentary commitment, are, at best, cautiously optimistic. How do you deal with a situation when the majority of your citizens are against holding of the Games?

Both Tokyo and Osaka are under emergency lockdown until June 30, 2021 due to a spike in Covid-19 cases of multiple variants.

With less than 50 days to go, the athletes have started to arrive. Visibly featured, on arrival, was the women’s softball team from Australia. The Jamaican football team failed some health protocols so were unable to enter as scheduled last week. Thousands of athletes will already be in Japan before June 30.

How safe can Tokyo be with 12,000 athletes and officials from all over the world, including the most affected Covid-19 hot spots, descending upon them? The IOC and TGHC believe it will be safe. The athletes will all be at the Games Village at the Bayside and will be transported back and forth to their games venues. All athletes are encouraged to be vaccinated before leaving home and will be tested frequently while in Japan. No foreign spectators are allowed to the Games. No decision yet if Japanese spectators will be allowed into the venues.

For a sports event, big or small, to happen, it requires a bubble and it needs only two to bubble. For the Tokyo Games, basically it will be the IOC and the Japanese Host Committee. The Japanese government has given its approval and laid down the conditions for the Games to happen.

Half the world away, Euro 2020 will be happening this month featuring the top European footballing nations. Again, for it to happen, it was an agreement between UEFA and the host nations. Several bubbles were created.

Our Azkals are locked in battle in Dubai this week in a FIFA World Cup qualifying round. Creating this bubble for them to be there with the national teams of China, Guam, Maldives and Syria were FIFA and the UAE.

Here at home, the Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas (SBP) and Clark created a similar bubble to bring the FIBA Asian Cup qualifiers to our shores to show that sports tourism is so much alive. Korea, Indonesia, Thailand, Chinese Taipei, Japan, China, Hong Kong, Guam and host nation, the Philippines, will play ball from June 16 to 20 in very tight fixtures only in one venue — the Angeles University Foundation Sports and Cultural Center (AUF).

All the 265 players, FIBA and SBP officials will be accommodated at the Quest Hotel inside Clark. PLDT, Smart, TV5 crew and ancillary staff will be billeted in just one more hotel.

As early as now, local personnel and even hotel staff, drivers and AUF staff (the venue) are already being tested and under quarantine also inside Clark.All players, officials, organizers, room boys, waiters, janitors etc. — everyone in the bubble will repeatedly be tested for Covid. I suppose it is also safe to presume that they too have been vaccinated.

From my experience in holding the 4th Sports Tourism Awards (PSTA) in Clark a few months ago, I had the distinct honor of working with the president and chief executive officer of Clark Development Corp. Manuel Gaerlan, who is chairman of the Organizing Committee for this FIBA Qualifiers; Arrey Perez, vice president of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority; Noemi Julian, manager of the Clark Tourism Office and engineer Mariza Mandocdoc, CDC vice president for Finance and Admin Group.

Assurances of the safety of the of the bubble were reinforced with the presence of Sonny Barrios, executive director of SBP and Secretary Vince Dizon, deputy chief implementer of the national policy against Covid-19, as advisers. Both gentlemen too featured prominently in the last PSTA.

Clark has not been named Sports Tourism Destination of the Year thrice for nothing. They earned every award that came their way.

Those of you having plans of a major sports event, bubble training and scrimmages in your locality during this pandemic, don’t despair. This template of the bubble is somewhat working well everywhere. It needs determination, desire, discipline and dedication.

Just In: It’s heartening to hear that Pagudpud in Ilocos Norte is hosting the volleyball national team training way up north. Great move, Tats Suzara of the Philippine National Volleyball Federation and Gov. Matthew M. Manotoc. Who’s next? It only takes two to bubble.


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