FILIPINO athletes who will vie in the Rio Olympics remain poised and unfazed by all the threats that could possibly disrupt the Games scheduled Aug. 5 to 21 in the populous city of Rio de Janeiro.
Aside from the deadly Zika virus, a mosquito-borne infection, organizers of the quadrennial event that should attract more than 10,000 athletes from over 200 countries have to deal with security problems.
Over the weekend, three members of the Spanish sailing team were robbed at gunpoint in a tourist area in Rio de Janeiro, where they’ve begun training ahead of the other competitors.
“Peace and order is also a concern,” said Jose Romasanta, chef-de-mission of the Philippine delegation, during Tuesday’s Philippine Sportswriters Association (PSA) Forum at Shakey’s Malate.
“The Spanish sailing team was held up on the way to practice,” he added.
Also posing a concern for everybody is the threat of terrorism, which according to Romasanta, will always be present in international gatherings like the Olympics.
“The threat of terrorism will always be there,” he said, adding that Brazil has asked all participating countries to provide themselves with at least two security officers during their stay in Rio de Janeiro.
“Then there is recession in Brazil. There is political instability with the impeachment (trial) of the President. That’s why health and security are both our concern,” said Romasanta.
Pollution at the Guanabara Bay, where a number of water sports events will take place, is another concern, although not for the Philippines because it has no entries in water sports.
“These concerns are being addressed,” said Romasanta.
The vice president of the Philippine Olympic Committee graced the forum presented by San Miguel Corp., Accel, Shakey’s, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. along with Rio-bound athletes Kirstie Alora of taekwondo and Ian Lariba of table tennis.
“Our athletes don’t allow themselves to lose focus,” said Romasanta, referring to the five Filipino bets, including Rogen Ladon and Charly Suarez of boxing, and Marestella Torres of track and field, who are bound for Rio.
There are more Pinoy athletes trying to make it to the Summer Olympics, more in boxing and a couple more from golf and athletics, then in swimming, weightlifting or even basketball.
Lariba, the first Filipina table tennis entry to the Olympics, said there’s nothing that could disrupt her focus on the Games, not the Zika virus, or the promise of a cash windfall if she wins a medal.
Under the law, a gold medalist in the Olympics will receive P10 million, silver medalist P5 million and bronze medalist P2 million.
“It’s normal for incentives as big as that to provide added motivation but it still boils down to the fact that we compete not for the incentive alone but to show the other countries how good we are,” said the student of La Salle.
Alora, who prepares for major competitions by sparring against taller jins, said her focus in Rio is on how to perform at her best, and not be distracted by any other threat.
“We focus on giving our best and going for the gold. That’s the aim,” she said