[PHOTO AT LEFT: Performers who will grace the opening ceremonies of the 23rd Southeast Asian Games on Sunday hold a dress rehearsal at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila’s Rizal Park yesterday. - Photo By EDD GUMBAN]

MANILA, November 25, 2005 (STAR) The exclusion of basketball from the 23rd Southeast Asian Games has disappointed many Filipinos, nearly half of whom expected the country’s cagers to win a medal in the sport, according to a survey by the Social Weather Stations (SWS).

Asked the question, "In what sport do you expect the Philippines to win any medals at the coming SEA Games?" about 44 percent of Filipinos expressed hope that the country would win a medal in basketball, which the SWS said is "statistically tied" with boxing (43 percent) as the top answer among 14 sports mentioned by at least 1.5 percent of respondents.

The SWS interviewed 1,200 statistically representative adult Filipinos in Metro Manila, and certain parts of Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao for its non-commissioned survey from Aug. 26 to Sept. 5. The survey has error margins of plus or minus three percentage points for national percentages and six percent for area percentages.

The Philippines has been the perennial basketball champion in the SEA Games, except in 1989, when the RP team was upset by Malaysia in the Kuala Lumpur games.

After basketball and boxing, next in rank are swimming (18 percent) and billiards (16 percent). They were followed by athletics at 14 percent; volleyball, 12 percent; martial arts, 10 percent; bowling, six percent; chess, five percent; tennis, four percent; badminton and football, three percent; fencing and baseball or softball, two percent.

Basketball was the top medal hope cited by 50 percent of Filipinos in Luzon and 43 percent in Mindanao, whom the SWS said "will be most disappointed by the exclusion of the game."

Boxing, rather than basketball, was named by 50 percent of Metro Manilans and 43 percent of Visayans as the country’s top medal hope.

After boxing and basketball, Metro Manilans held out the highest hopes for medals in swimming, 25 percent; billiards and athletics, 21 percent; and martial arts, 12 percent. This ranking held true for the respondents in the rest of Luzon.

For Visayans, it is volleyball (13 percent) that comes after boxing and basketball; followed by billiards at 12 percent; and swimming and athletics, 10 percent.

About 18 percent of Mindanao residents hoped that volleyball, after basketball and boxing, would yield medals, followed by swimming and billiards at 16 percent, and athletics at 12 percent.

A little more than half of Filipinos belonging to the upper and middle classes have high hopes for medals in boxing (51 percent). This is followed by basketball at 38 percent; athletics, 20 percent; swimming, 17 percent; and billiards and martial arts, 14 percent.

However, the SWS noted that the very poor, especially in the rural areas of Visayas and Mindanao, believe the Philippines would have better chances of winning a medal in volleyball (13 percent) compared to athletics (eight percent).

Though basketball and boxing were the top choices of both genders, the SWS said "the predominance of hope for medals" is much higher among men, with 50 percent favoring basketball and 49 percent choosing boxing. Only 38 percent of women chose basketball and 37 percent favored boxing.

Billiards ranked third among men at 22 percent but placed sixth among women at 11 percent.

Women have higher hopes for medals in swimming at 18 percent; athletics, 16 percent; and volleyball, 13 percent.

The SWS said martial arts ranked fourth among respondents who attended college, but only seventh among those "with not more than a high school degree."

Meanwhile, the government is expecting a dramatic increase in the number of foreign tourists and tourism earnings due to the hosting of the SEA Games.

Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA) general manager Robert Dean Barbers said the income of the country’s tourism industry is expected to double this year due to the SEA Games.

"We are expecting the tourism receipts to... surpass last year’s record and hopefully this would be sustained until next year," he said.

The Department of Tourism earlier projected that there would be 2.6 million international arrivals this year and tourism receipts would reach at least $2.5 billion. — With Mayen Jaymalin

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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