MANILA, September 15, 2003 (STAR) By Abac Cordero  - Like Vietnam, which is hosting the 22nd Southeast Asian Games in December, the Philippines will have to spend quite a fortune for its own planning, preparation and actual hosting of the biennial meet in 2005.

Philippine Olympic Committee president Celso Dayrit yesterday said the country needs as much as P500 million or almost $10 million to prepare for the games tentatively set Nov. 20 to 30 in 2005.

The figure, which the POC chief disclosed before mediamen, does not cover infrastructure projects just in case new sports facilities and venues are to be built or old ones, like the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, are to be refurbished.

Dayrit, however, said it may be too late to build a new main stadium, but added that the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (Philsoc) is not closing the door on building at least a new aquatic center.

The money, he explained, will be spent on preparation of the games, the accommodation of the thousands of foreign athletes and officials, and the actual running of the games — from the equipment to personnel.

The Philippines spent almost P250 million when it hosted the SEA Games in 1991 with the peso-to-dollar exchange rate at 20:1 compared to today’s 55:1. Of the P250 million budget 12 years ago, only P15 million came from Congress with the rest being raised through a sound marketing program.

"That’s why we will sell sponsorship packages for the 2005 SEA Games. And with some ingenuity, we can still cut and limit the cost. What we’ll spend in 2005 will be even less than what we spent in 1991 (based on the current peso to dollar rate)," said Dayrit.

The Philippines, he added, might just adopt the strategy to be employed by Vietnam for this year’s games where athletes will be billeted according to sport.

"Like if taekwondo is to be held at the Cuneta Astrodome, we can billet all its athletes at Hyatt which is is close to the venue. We can do a lot of saving by doing this instead of picking up, say, the Malaysian taekwondo bets, at the Manila Peninsula in Makati," added Dayrit.

But whatever amount the Philippines plans to spend in 2005 will definitely pale in comparison to what Vietnam will spend for this year’s games.

The Vietnamese, Dayrit added, spent $53 million alone for a new main stadium and another $14 million for an air-conditioned aquatic center. This year’s hosts are reportedly spending close to $100 million for infrastructure. The opening ceremony alone, to be handled by a Belgian group, will cost $1 million.

"Their main stadium can seat 40,000 and once you’re in it, you wouldn’t even think that you’re in Hanoi. I’ve seen it. And the opening ceremony will be quite a show with the Belgian group expected to bring in tons of tons of laser equipment," said Dayrit.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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