Malilong: Sports, not Sinulog nor speeches, center

Malilong.
Malilong.SunStar file

The 31st Cebu City Olympics was scheduled to open last Saturday and end today. I do not know if it pushed through as announced. There has been no report about it in the two major local newspapers since Jan. 25 when they announced that swimming and athletics will be held in Naga City, 20 kilometers away and, on a good day, an hour away from Cebu City.

The snub is unprecedented as it is unfortunate because the city’s Olympics is supposed to be the first step for young athletes with an eye towards qualifying for bigger competitions like the Palarong Pambansa to display their skills before a bigger audience, and have their performance recorded in the sports pages.

More unfortunate, however, is the equally unprecedented decision to relocate the swimming and athletic competitions, which are the main attractions in any sports festival, to Naga. The reason? The lack of a suitable venue in Cebu City in view of the shutdown ordered by Mayor Michael Rama of the Cebu City Sports Center (CCSC) in May last year.

The closure was absolutely within the mayor’s prerogative. It is the delay in the prosecution of the reason for the closure that, nine months later, raises some questions.

The CCSC was due for repairs, Rama explained in May. At that time, the city had already indicated its intention to bid for the hosting of the 2024 Palarong Pambansa, which Cebu City first hosted 30 years ago. In August, hosting was awarded to Cebu City over Negros Occidental and Antique. Rama was justifiably ecstatic.

“We have already begun preparations to make sure our sporting venues will be top-caliber,” Rama assured the Department of Education officials in his acceptance speech, according to the city’s mouthpiece, the Cebu City News and Information.

I’m sure Rama had the CCSC in mind when he said that. It was where the 1994 Games were held, and it is the only venue that can accommodate most of the games as well as the opening and closing ceremonies.

At that time, I was still a member of the CCSC management committee, having been reappointed by the mayor following my resignation shortly after he took over from Edgardo Labella. Rama informed the committee about his decision to close the sports center only after he had already announced it to the public.

I waited for the repair work to start, but it did not happen until October. Those who, like us, were hoping that the facility would be reopened to the public before the year ended saw its futility. The mayor is keeping his calendar close to his chest.

CCSC stands for Cebu City Sports Center. It is not the Cebu City Sinulog Center nor the Cebu City Speeches Center. As I have written in this space quite a number of times already, I was present when then mayor Tomas Osmeña fought for—and won—the establishment of a sports center, later to become the CCSC, in Cebu City, instead of in Talisay as Cebu First District Rep. Eduardo Gullas advocated.

Notwithstanding that, for two successive days last month the CCSC became the Cebu City Sinulog and/or the Cebu City Speeches Center. That is likely to happen again next January since the CCSC has become the favorite of Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia and her mayors.

The CCSC has served as entertainment center already. It is time to beg City Hall to restore its original use and purpose. Please, Mayor, return the CCSC to the people.

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