MANILA, November 11, 2005 
(STAR) Everything is in place — from security to production number — for the grand and elaborate opening ceremonies of the 23rd Southeast Asian Games at the Quirino Grandstand.

Officials behind the expected three-hour show went to Luneta yesterday to personally inspect the place and discuss the security details on opening day of the region’s biggest sports spectacle.

"All preparation are now in place. Only minor details are to be polished, particularly the security arrangement in the area. But overall, we’re very optimistic about it. We assure the Filipinos and the people of the world that they are going to love the show, that’s a promise," said Virgilio Nadal, executive producer of the opening and closing committees of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee.

No less than President Arroyo will lead the nation in welcoming the more than 7,000 athletes, officials, members of the diplomatic corps and foreign guests in the ceremony that will be broadcast live within the SEA region and around the world.

The local broadcast pool is composed of government networks IBC-13, NBN-4 and RPN-9 and corporate-owned ABC-5.  Mabuhay Satellite is responsible for transmitting the broadcast feed to all international broadcasters and will use the Philippines’ first and only satellite, Agila 2.

Overall director and producer Maria Montelibano was not around yesterday during an ocular visit at the Quirino Grandstand owing to an earlier commitment, but her assistant, noted stage director Robert Tongco, said a dry run of the various opening activities will be held next week to finalize all the details, including the security measures.

"Open field ito, so the organizers are expecting around 300,000 people to witness the event. It’s a security nightmare kaya proper coordination is needed among security committee, protocol and secretariat," said Tongco.

During a coordination meeting at the Luneta VIP lounge, Manila Police District director chief Superintendent Pedro Bulaong assured that security arrangement had been properly planned way ahead of the Games. He said 5,000 uniformed men are to be assigned in the venue.

Keon sees RP team finishing first or second in SEA Games (MANILA TIMES) By Frank Calapre, Correspondent

IT’S either first or second overall for the 743-man Team Philippines in the 23rd Southeast Asian Games from November 27 to December 5.

This was the bold forecast of National Training Director Michael Keon, who said Friday the host team is capable of doubling its output from its previous performance in Vietnam in 2003.

“A minimum of 92 golds and a maximum of 128 golds. I was able to monitor the training of the athletes, I have brought some to China and I have had the opportunity to talk to the athletes and officials,” said Keon, a former Philippine Olympic Committee president and executive director of the successful Project: Gintong Alay.

Keon, whose project produced RP sporting greats Lydia de Vega-Mercado, Isidro del Prado, Eric Buhain and Felix Barrientos, said the national team is better prepared today than 2 years ago.

Athletes from 36 sports disciplines seeing action in the Games trained and competed in 121 events overseas, while 20 RP teams trained in China, Mongolia, Italy, Japan, Korea, the United States and Hungary.

“I honestly believe the RP team can double what we got in Vietnam. Our athletes have the necessary overseas training and were sent to compete abroad,” added Keon during yesterday’s Scoop Forum at the Kamayan Restaurant on Padre Faura Street in Manila.

Keon’s forecast was modest compared to one given earlier by SEA Games Task Force head Harry Angping, who saw Filipinos winning 109 to 150 golds.

But unlike the 22nd SEAG, there will be no runaway winner this year in the 11-nation meet, as he predicted Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines to engage in a down-the-wire battle for overall supremacy.

“It’s going to be a three-cornered fight. All three [countries] will fight closely until the final day,” Keon stressed.

In 2003 Vietnam won the overall crown for the first time with 150 golds. Thailand settled for second with 87, Indonesia finished with 53 and the Philippines ranked fourth with 49, just ahead of Malaysia with 43 for fifth place.

Keon said Thailand will be the most feared because Vietnam no longer has the hometown advantage. The Thais also trained abroad heavily just like Filipino athletes, who started rigid training in February.

“I have studied the performances of Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines for the past three SEA Games. And the Thais really are good. There were biases in Vietnam, and we have removed three sports that favored them in 2003. As long as we have the breaks, we have the chance,” added the nephew of former President Ferdinand Marcos.

RP athletes trained in Japan for judo, karatedo in Italy, archery in Korea, wrestling in Mongolia, tae kwon do also in Korea, gymnastics in China and the United States, canoe-kayak in Hungary and football, fencing, volleyball, wushu, table tennis, swimming and weightlifting in China.

Keon mentioned athletes in wushu, tae kwon do, athletics, and boxing—which have a combined nine foreign trips—as likely to produce the most number of golds for the country.

Barring injuries and psychological letdowns, Keon said Team Philippines has a strong fighting chance for the overall title.

“If we can’t win the overall [championship] now, we can hardly get it in the next SEA Games [in Thailand]. Now is the time,” he said.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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