Friday, August 29, 2008

Olympic Dream

A lot has been said about the recently concluded Beijing Olympics.  Mostly good and positive, but some not so positive statements have also been thrown out there especially when referring to the Philippine’s non medal performance.  The blame game started a few weeks ago and continues in the aftermath.

All I can say is that the Olympics experience in China was one to cherish and learn from in terms of pushing the limits and being the best.  The organization of the games was practically flawless in all aspects and if China needed an event to declare their status as a world player, then the Olympics did the job.

During the four (4) hour plane ride back to Manila, it was actually an interesting exercise to dream of a scenario where the Philippines was host to the Olympic Games.  What would it take for it to happen?  After going through the factors involved, it got a little depressing.

First off, we would need an airport that can take in almost three (3) million visitors who will watch the games.  The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) only has one runway and will not hold up to that many visitors arriving in such a short time span.  Beijing created a terminal just for the Olympic family arriving with dedicated immigration lines and baggage pickup.  There were over 10,000 athletes and over 20,000 media personnel accredited with a lot more officials and coaches from all countries involved.  It took almost a decade to open a terminal significantly smaller in size here so an airport in the Philippines to accommodate this in unlikely.

Then there are the accommodations for all involved.  The athlete’s village in Beijing consisted of luxury condominiums complete with amenities like swimming pools, weight rooms, and restaurants about a kilometer away from the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium.  A good comparison would be the Rockwell group of condos in Makati City.  The media village was similar although farther away from the action about twenty (20) minutes away by bus.  Unless all the residents of Rockwell agree to move out and give way to the athletes, then the Philippines being able to house the Olympic family is again unlikely.  That doesn’t even take into consideration the shortage of hotel rooms for the millions who will come and watch.

The venues and facilities for the games were very impressive.  The bird’s nest stadium was state of the art with awesome audio visual facilities.  The water cube was an architectural marvel and a sight to be behold inside out.  It really is unfair to even try to describe how incredible the structures were in Beijing.  All facilities were overwhelming.  The closest we have would be the Araneta Coliseum which can be adequate for the basketball games but it would still need an upgrade in the LED and audio system, media positions and upgraded locker rooms.  We don’t have anything else that comes close and would have to build from scratch for all other venues.

The transport system was also something to applaud.  The whole city had Olympic lanes to avoid traffic for all accredited vehicles from one venue to another.  That would never fly in Manila.  There were hundreds of busses deployed so that at any given time, accredited personnel can catch a ride from one venue to another.  The Olympic ID allowed free use of all public utility vehicles in the city.  I can’t even begin to try to figure out how to fix our transport system in the Philippines.

Then there’s the International Broadcast Center (IBC), where the international media can go and get information about all the games in all the venues.  There were countless workstations, LCD screens, books, flyers, and everything else needed to be able cover the games.  Hundreds of buses were in place right outside for immediate deployment to all relevant venues.  The Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) would be the closest we have if it was wired with thousands of monitors, millions of feet of wires, and dozens of satellite dishes.

The one component I think the Philippines might be able to match is the participation of 500,000 volunteers spread throughout the city to help out during the games.  Their contribution was just as valuable as any of the first class venues and high tech equipment used in the 17 day span.  I believe that the Philippine culture and spirit is up to the challenge and can even surpass the hospitality shown by the Chinese people.

It doesn’t cost anything to dream and we can only hope that our country figures out how to eventually succeed in sports on the world stage.  


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