LONDON—In an Olympic moment to remember, Team Philippines was greeted with songs and dances in a joyous welcome rite that left its athletes, officials and guests loving every minute of it on a bright summer morning on Sunday.
For 30 memorable minutes at the Plaza in the heart of the Athletes Village, 120 performers in colorful getup sang, danced, ran, jumped and somersaulted as they entertained the Filipino contingent with a celebratory show highlighting the flag-raising ritual ahead of the 30th Olympic Games.
Eight of the 11 athletes, five team officials and a handful of guests from the embassy and Filipino community took part in the ceremony that saw the Philippines become the ninth country in a starting cast of 204 to have its national colors raised as part of the Olympic tradition.
As the national anthem was played and the flag was raised, the Filipinos stood at attention, many of them with right hand in their heart, in a solemn part of the program which culminated with the athletes, officials and guests heading out to the joyful strains of Don’t Stop Me.
In another highlight, an exchange of gifts between chief of mission Manny Lopez and Village mayor Charles Allen took place shortly after the latter spoke glowing words for the athletes “whose time has come and the real stars of the Olympics.”
“Your time has come. We can’t wait to see you display your athletic talents,” said Allen to the rousing applause from Team Philippines and the Vietnamese squad which shared the glorious moment with the Filipinos.
Lopez gifted the Village head with a commemorative replica of a golden passenger jeepney placed inside a special box while getting in return a stainless replica of a postcard with local landmarks such as Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and London Bridge carved on it.
All members of Team Philippines were present during the ceremony that began a few minutes before high noon, save for weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, boxer Mark Anthony Barriga and BMX rider Danny Caluag.
Joining the team on this memorable occassion was Philippine ambassador Enrique Manalo, who was celebrating his birthday.
On the invitation of Lopez, the ambassador, along with two embassy people and three members of the Filipino community, lunched at the Village dining hall and took a brief look at the rooms of Team Philippines in one of the 11 blocks of 2,818 townhouses and apartments that will house more than 15,000 athletes and officials.
Weighlifter Diaz and her coach Tony Agustin missed the program, coming in late as the bus that carried them after a practice session took some time to pass through the extra-tight security leading to the Village.
Barriga is still in Cardiff, Wales wrapping up the final stage of his long buildup while Caluag is in the closing days of a training stint in the Netherlands. They are joining the rest of their teammates on July 24, three days before the opening ceremony.
In attendance were archers Mark Javier and Rahel Cabral, swimmers Jessie Khing Lacuna and Jasmine Alkhaldi, judoka Tomohiko Hoshina, long jumper Marestella Torres, 5000-m runner Rene Herrera, shooter Brian Rosario, administrative officer Arsenic Lacson and coaches Gay Corral of swimming and Joseph Sy of athletics.
Wearing training pants and jackets, the Filipinos as well as the Vietnamese were left oohing and aahing by the performers from the National Youth Centre of Great Britain.
“Exciting. Ibang iba. Enjoy ako,” Torres said, giggling.
“Spectacular. A memorable welcome show for all of us,”said Lopez.
To the sounds of a martial music, the Philippine and Vietnamese teams entered the venue, ushered in by smiling, friendly volunteers.