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    ZERO IN RIO

    Aug 13, 2012

    FOR 16 glorious days in London, the world found plenty to celebrate in an Olympic Games that witnessed super-human feats, savored extraordinary moments, swayed to the catchy beat of classic British pop and was graced by royalty, both real and metaphorical.

    To no one’s surprise Jacques Rogue’s “happy Games” brought little cheer on the field for the Philippine team, which once again came up empty in London, just like it did in Beijing four years ago, and the Games before that in Athens, as well as the one before that in Sydney.

    The 11 intrepid Filipinos looked like outcasts in the five-ring party, and in a way they were. No one among them had any right to be in London in the first place if we go by standards alone, thrown in at the deep end only because the Philippines just like any other country needed to be represented in the global showpiece.

    Against the world’s finest athletes, it became evident that the Filipinos – poorly trained and equipped with nothing more than big, fighting hearts – would have to perform nothing short of a miracle to have a chance at a medal of whatever mint or color.

    In those two or so weeks, we too prayed with them.

    We somehow hoped that pint-sized boxer Mark Anthony Barriga would stand 10 feet tall and punch above his weight. Or that unknown Filipino-American BMX biker Daniel Caluag would ride like the wind and, more importantly, walk the talk.

    But by now we all know the story. Barriga, the only boxer we sent to the Games, lost not only because of an unfair points deduction from the inept referee but more because he was too winded to sustain the gains he had made the first two rounds.

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    And Caluag? He was simply undeserving of the hype.

    Deep inside we also knew that any victory would have been an aberration and that the results, while disappointing, were predictable and fair: for the three zeroes that dotted the country’s line in the medal tally were merely an honest reflection of the state of Philippine sports.

    There had been zero progress in the sports front from Sydney to London – a 12-year span which officials spent bickering, fighting over old turf, passing the buck and doing everything but charting a direction for the country’s sports development program.

    Actually we should go well, well beyond Sydney if we trace the ills of Philippine sports, which has not had a sound talent identification and development program since Michael Keon’s Gintong Alay was unceremoniously shut down in the eighties.

    The years that followed had seen PH sports adrift at sea with neither a map nor a compass, with a revolving door of political appointees and sports old hands with neither dynamism nor even just a wee bit of creativity alternating at the wheel.

    If there was one significant difference between London and other Olympic debacles, it was that lack of funds can no longer be blamed for this failure. This delegation, or at least the sports pinpointed as medal potentials like boxing, had lots of it – thanks to the support of patrons like Manny Pangilinan who had sunk money into their programs.

    So if these people are looking for someone or something to blame, all they need to do is look in the mirror. But is that too much to ask? Of course, which only means that we can’t expect anything to change between now and the Rio de Janeiro Games four years down the road.  

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    See you in Rio? Nope, for us it’s more like ‘Zero in Rio.’  

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