MANILA, August 22, 2005 
(STAR) By Joaquin Henson - The SEAG opening rites are scheduled on Nov. 27 at the Luneta, also the site of the closing ceremonies on Dec. 4.

Director Maria Montelibano is in charge of the opening and closing programs, which were described to be festive but not lavish. The opening two-hour show will be highlighted by a colorful display of fireworks. Similar fiesta-like celebrations will be held simultaneously in the satellite venues of Bacolod, Cebu and Subic Bay Freeport.

Athletics or track and field has the most gold medals up for grabs with 45. Aquatics, including swimming, is next with 43. Shooting has 25, gymnastics 24, wushu 22, karatedo 18, pencak silat 17, taekwondo and judo 16 each, billiards/snooker 14, boxing 13, 12 each from cycling, fencing, sailing and wrestling and 10 each bowling and weightlifting.

Other sports in the calendar are rowing, chess, archery, canoe/kayak, table tennis, lawn tennis, muay Thai, badminton, bodybuilding, traditional boat racing, lawn bowls, sepak takaw, petanque, arnis, volleyball, golf, basketball, football, triathlon, softball, squash, equestrian, dancesport and baseball.

A Filipino indigenous sport, arnis, will make its SEA Games debut with six golds for the taking. Dancesport, which is recognized by the International Olympic Committee, will also be introduced with two gold medals on the table.

In the last SEA Games, Filipino tracksters accounted for eight golds, three silvers and five bronzes. Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association president Go Teng Kok is aiming for 15 golds this year. Marathon, incidentally, will kick off the athletics competition with the 42-kilometer race slated before the opening program.

Wushu delivered six golds and aquatics, five in Vietnam. Fencing, wrestling, chess, judo, gymnastics and billiards brought in at least two golds apiece. Other sports that struck gold were archery, men’s basketball, boxing, cycling, karatedo, shooting and traditional boat racing.

A cloud of doubt on whether the Philippines will play in the basketball event for men and women continues to hover over the SEA Games. The Philippines was suspended from participating in FIBA (Federation Internationale de Basketball) competitions last June because of the expulsion of its country affiliate Basketball Association of the Philippines (BAP) by the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) General Assembly. The POC has appealed for the lifting of the suspension and the accreditation of the Philippine Basketball Federation (PBF) as the new country affiliate in the BAP’s place. The POC now recognizes the PBF as the National Sports Association for basketball.

FIBA also suspended the Philippines in 2001 because of a similar leadership problem and lifted the suspension a week before the start of the SEA Games. The suspension was lifted after the BAP settled who would be its next president.

A sport close to the Filipino’s heart is boxing. In Vietnam, six Filipino fighters barged into the finals but only lightflyweight Harry Tañamor hit paydirt. Once more, Tañamor will lead the charge for the Philippines. He won the gold at the King’s Cup in Thailand last April to show he’s ready for war. There are eight golds at stake in men’s boxing and five in the women’s division.

At the moment, venues for the SEA Games are being prepared with just a few kinks left to resolve. Metro Manila will host most of the events but certain major sports are earmarked for the provinces. Los Baños will be the site for aquatics, Canlubang for golf, Tagaytay for chess, Angeles City for lawn bowls and petanque, Subic Bay for archery, canoe/kayak, sailing and triathlon, Danao for cycling, Cebu City for dancesport, karatedo and pencak silat and Bacolod for sepak takraw, boxing, football, volleyball and weightlifting.

The Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee is leaving no stone unturned in preparing for a successful SEA Games. Funds are still being raised to fill in gaps but as the Games draw nearer, more sponsors and benefactors are expected to join the bandwagon in the national effort to showcase the Philippines as a mecca of sports.

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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