MANILA, September 17, 2003 (STAR) By Abac Cordero  - Athletics chief Go Teng Kok yesterday hailed the government’s all-out support to the 15th Asian Championships, but said the event, to be participated in by 44 countries, will not be complete without President Arroyo gracing Saturday’s opening ceremonies.

"It’s really my wish for President Arroyo to grace the opening. This event is usually being declared open by the presidents of previous host countries and there are 44 countries competing here," said Go during yesterday’s PSA Forum at Manila Pavilion.

Former President Fidel V. Ramos graced the opening rites of the same event when it was last hosted by the Philippines in 1993. Go, who was already head of RP athletics then, is hoping that President Arroyo can do the same.

"We’ve sent her the invitation and I’ll try to write one again. They (visitors) all want to see and hear President Arroyo during the opening. They all have very high regard for her," added Go during the weekly forum sponsored by Agfa, Red Bull and Pagcor.

The President is scheduled to leave the country on Sept. 25 for a whirlwind working visit that would take her to New York, Paris and Rome in five days. Gracing the opening of Asian trackfest at 2 p.m. on Saturday, however, seem to be out of her schedule as she has reportedly asked Tourism Secretary Richard Gordon to take her place.

Go said it would be a big letdown if the President skips the event.

"Well, at least, if she does, maybe she can accommodate us in a courtesy call we’re trying to schedule this weekend. In fact, everyone would like to be included in the guest list," added Go, who hailed the Philippine Sports Commission under chair Eric Buhain for throwing their support on the colorful event.

President Arroyo recently signed Proclamation No. 432 urging all government agencies to rally behind the country’s hosting of the Asian trackfest.

Of the 45 member countries of the Asian Athletics Association, only North Korea will not send entries to Manila.

Over the last couple of weeks, the PSC spent close to P21 million in refurbishing the Rizal Memorial Stadium, and has also assured Go of another P4 million in financial support, half of which has already been released.

Go also received $80,000 from IAAF, the world’s governing body in track and field, as support to countries hosting such events. He said this will be used to shoulder the airfare plus board and lodging of the close to 1,200 foreign athletes and officials that started coming in the other day.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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