(STAR) THE GAME OF MY LIFE By Bill Velasco - 2008 is going to be another blockbuster year for sports, and a bonanza for spectators in particular. The centerpieces will be the Beijing Olympics in the international summer, and world title fights for Filipino boxers. But overall, it will be a huge explosion of the market here in the country.

First, there are many more outlets for male-oriented content on free TV and cable television, which will begin January 1st. There are already new markets being explored by one sports network, and the competition heating up between ABS-CBN and GMA for the growing sports market, and the race is not confined to pro boxing, either.

In the last couple of years, the television industry has learned from the advertising industry about promoting events, both on TV and pay-per-view, which in this case means commercial-free cinema screenings. Funny how great events of the pre- and post-war era were mainly shown in theatres, and now that medium that television has stolen audiences from is now getting its revenge, at a bigger cost to the viewing public.

The big daddy of events will be the Beijing Olympics. In Asia, China is the emerging juggernaut, and they know it. And they also know the prevailing law of multi-sport competitions like the Olympic Games: my house, my rules. Expect China to exploit this unwritten advantage to the hilt, never mind the imminent protests of countries that will unavoidably lose medals like the United States and the heavy hitters of Europe. China fully expects to be the overall champion in London in 2012, but why not flex its muscles early?

The Philippines will try to get its first Olympic gold medal in 2008, and will most likely come from boxing or taekwondo, although any sport we qualify for in Beijing will be a possible gold mine, if we get our act together.

In basketball, the US will be trying to steal the spotlight again. The situation in the sport parallels the same in many areas of American life, from education to manufacturing. Asian imports are stealing the thunder from homegrown Americans, be it in terms of scholarships to automotive manufacturing to Hollywood movie production. The American share of the market is getting smaller, just as it expands overseas. In 2008, the NBA is hoping to stem the tide with a return to prominence in basketball.

Speaking of basketball, there will be a lot of movement next year. The UAAP will showcase strengthened teams, improved scouting, and a big change in the UP Maroons for their centennial. The NCAA will probably be back to full strength with the return of PCU, and the heavy recruiting of also-rans, which saw one of the member schools actually attempting to lure 6’10” Gian Chiu back to the Philippines from Oberlin College in Ohio. And of course, expect the BAP-SBP to finally get a head of steam, hopefully with the release of some funds from sponsors, and creating showcase events that will actually show people what the BAP-SBP is.

Expect many upheavals in Philippine sports in 2008, starting with the Philippine Sports Commission. The implementation of commissioner Leon Montemayor’s termination on the eve of the SEA Games was a strong signal that Malacañang is not happy with what has been going on among its appointees. Expect at least one more head to roll, maybe two. Deadweights are no longer tolerated in the time of leaving a legacy. Also, expect the Senate and House to more closely examine the flaws in the government’s sports system, and hopefully to make a difference.

The Senate is looking into the financial shortfall in the remittances of PAGCOR, dating back to 2005 or earlier. Essentially, PAGCOR is only giving half of the National Sports Development Fund, interpreting the law in its own way. PCSO, to a lesser degree, is doing the same. Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Gringo Honasan are on the case.

The House, meanwhile, is looking at two options: giving sports a fixed (and bigger) budget, or pushing the move to elevate the agency into a Cabinet-level position. As of now, the PSC chairman has the rank of undersecretary under the Office of the President. The Department of Budget may see the complications of such a move, and not the long-term benefits. Be that as it may, the proponents are moving forward.

A lot of movement, and not even on the playing fields

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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