MANILA,  July 30, 2004
By Joey Villar  -  The countdown for the Athens OIympics for the compact Philippine contingent had virtually begun with the team managers and coaches being briefed on their functions and duties to their athletes in the course of their participation in the quadrennial games.

Chief of mission Steve Hontiveros and medical officer Dr. Jose Raul Canlas conducted the briefing yesterday at the Philippine Olympic Committee offices.

The RP contingent is on the final two weeks of its preparation for the Athens Games and they would be given a formal send-off by President Arroyo on Monday at the Malacañang Palace.

Hontiveros, president of the international bowling federation (FIQ) and the Philippine Bowling Congress, reminded the managers and coaches that their wards must maintain proper decorum and discipline during the Games.

He also put accent on the proper uniform to wear in training and during the competition since the athletes would face immediate disqualification if they were to wear uniforms not approved by the International Olympic Committee.

Canlas, for his part, warned the coaches and managers against giving their athletes with medicines without his knowledge to ensure compliance with the strict IOC mandate on prohibited drugs.

"This is going to be the strictest, drug-free Olympics," he said.

Among the coaches and managers present in the briefing at the were Henry Manalang of archery, Anthony Lozada of swimming, Jose Ramon Corral of shooting, Jobert Morales of taekwondo and Joseph Sy of athletics.

During the briefing, the POC also handed out the team uniforms, bags and their formal attire the athletes will wear in the opening and closing ceremonies of the 220-nation conclave slated Aug. 13-29.

The national team is set to leave in batches with the boxers — Romeo Brin, Harry Tanamor, Chris Camat and Violito Payla — the first Filipinos to set foot in Athens on Aug. 5, coming in from France.

They will be accompanied by coaches George Caliwan, Boy Velasco and Pat Gaspi following a month-long training in Europe that brought them to France and Bulgaria.

An 11-man batch — which includes archer Jasmin Figueroa, shooter Jethro Dionisio and tanker Timmy Chua — will follow the boxers together. The others in the group Hontiveros, Manalang, Corral, Lozada, press attaché Gus Villanueva, Francisco Rivera and administrative officer Boying Santos-Viola.

Joining the squad two days later are swimmers Miguel Molina and Miguel Mendoza and tracksters Eduardo Buenavista and Lerma Bulauitan-Gabito. Molina and Mendoza will be coming straight from the United States while Buenavista and Gabito will depart from Manila.

Leaving Manila on Aug. 9 is finance officer Benjie Ramos with Fil-Am swimmers Jacky Pangilinan and JB Walsh hitting Athens on Aug. 10 and 11, respectively.

Canlas, Philippine Olympic Committee president Celso Dayrit and POC secretary-general Romeo Ribano plane to Greece on the 11th. Dayrit and Ribano will be the official members of the Olympic family.

The taekwondo jins Marie Antoinette Rivero, Tshomlee Go and Donald Geisler and officials Jesus Morales III and Tae Kun Kim will will be the last group to hit Athens.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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