Photographers from local media outlets were not allowed to cover the opening ceremonies of the 30th Southeast Asian Games, the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee announced Friday.
PHISGOC, however, said three or four photographers from wire services will be allowed to cover the ceremony at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
“For the opening ceremony, it’s really just the official photographer,” said Pauline Ick, PHISGOC director for broadcast and media.
“We are limiting media access tomorrow for the opening ceremony. Everything will be broadcast live on ABS-CBN,” Ick added.
She said PHISGOC will release the official photos and media outlets could access the “photo service” that will be provided.
Roy Domingo, president of Press Photographers of the Philippines, questioned the exclusion of Filipino photographers.
“That is the question of many. There will be VIPs that will come tomorrow,” Domingo said in an interview with the Manila Standard.
President Rodrigo Duterte is scheduled to attend the opening of SEA Games and Filipino-American rapper Allan Pineda or apl.de.ap of the Black Eyed Peas is slated to perform.
World gymnastics champion Carlos Edriel Yulo will be the torch bearer in the opening rites.
Hidilyn Diaz, EJ Obiena, Nesthy Petecio, Eumir Marcial, Margielyn Didal, and Kiyomi Watanabe will be the Philippine flag bearers.
Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano, who heads the organizing committee, on Friday said none of the local media were responsible for spreading “fake news” about the event preparations.
“I was told by somebody from the media that money has been offered to find fault with the preparations of the SEA Games. But nobody accepted [it], thus fake news websites criticizing the preparations suddenly appeared on the web,” he said in Filipino.
House leaders, meanwhile, called on all Filipinos to unite for the success of the opening of the SEA Games today (Saturday).
Deputy Speakers Prospero Pichay Jr. and Dan Fernandez said the blame game will not solve the issues tied to preparations for the 30th Southeast Asian Games nor will it help boost the spirits of the country’s participating athletes.
“We should be united as a Filipino nation so that our athletes will definitely be inspired and have high morale to be able to capture the gold medals that we want them to win,” said Pichay.
Fernandez, congressman from Laguna, noted that the government and the organizing committee have taken sincere and swift steps at addressing complaints initially aired by some participating teams.
“Our officials have offered sincere apologies but this act of humility was merely exploited by rabble rousers in the social media to suit their regretful objectives,” Fernandez said.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III said the Senate would investigate the problems that beset the run-up to the Games opening.
He also said Filipinos “should not be hospitable when it comes to the battle for the gold.”
“If our rivals complain, they should lose. Then the gold will be ours. That is what they did to us,” Sotto said in Filipino, recalling his days as an athlete in the 1980s.
The run-up to the opening on Nov. 30 has been marred by complaints from visiting athletes and media about the accreditation process, accommodations, food, facilities and transportation.
But Sotto said such complaints were common, no matter which country was the host.
President Duterte has called for a probe into the preparations for the Southeast Asian Games, after a messy build-up marked by last-minute construction and logistical problems.
Complaints over transport, accommodation and food stacked up as thousands of athletes flood in for the biggest ever edition of the Games, which are also threatened by an approaching typhoon forecast to hit the northern Philippines early next week.
Red-faced organizers apologized and promised to do better, but after criticism grew under a mocking hashtag, #SEAGamesfail, Duterte waded into the furore late Thursday.
“I said let us investigate. Do not create a firestorm now because we are in the thick of preparations,” he told reporters.
“To me personally there was a lot of money poured into this activity,” he added. “Now I suppose that with that kind of money you can run things smoothly. Apparently, maybe something went wrong.”
Earlier, Cayetano remained upbeat.
“First and foremost, this is going to be a great hosting,” he said. “You will be very, very proud of your country, of your athletes once the SEA Games are over.”
Meanwhile, the weather bureau said Typhoon Kammuri—which is packing gusts of 170 kilometers per hour and maximum sustained winds of 140 kph—is heading right for Games venues in the north of the country and is expected to make landfall on Tuesday.
This year’s Games in Clark, Manila and Subic, which run through to Dec. 11, are particularly complex with a record 56 sports across dozens of venues that are in some cases hours’ drive apart, even before Manila’s notorious gridlock traffic is factored in.
The vast scale of the multi-sport event has included erecting a massive sports complex in New Clark City, which is at least two hours’ drive north from the capital.
The path towards Saturday’s opening ceremony—an all-singing, all-dancing celebration—has been tortuous from the start.
Manila in July 2017 suddenly pulled out of hosting the Games to focus on rebuilding the southern city of Marawi which was heavily damaged during seige by jihadists.
But officials made a U-turn just one month later after securing backing from Duterte.
Security remains a top concern, and police have increased visibility at nightspots near competition venues and suspended Filipinos’ right to carry firearms outside their homes.
Almost 16,000 policemen are deployed in various parts of greater Manila, particularly in the venues and hotels where athletes and other delegations are billeted.
The Philippines, which last hosted the biennial games in 2005, is aiming to win the most medals, and history is on their side: seven of the last 11 SEA Games hosts have topped the table, reflecting the tradition of rewriting the sporting program to suit local strengths.
Malaysia topped the table two years ago with home advantage in Kuala Lumpur, ahead of Thailand and Vietnam, with the Philippines in sixth place.
Around 8,750 athletes and team officials are expected at this year’s edition, and there are some 12,000 volunteers. Organizers hope more than 500 million viewers will tune in on TV.
In an eclectic program, Olympic sports like swimming and athletics sit side-by-side with regional favorites like martial arts pencak silat, arnis and wushu, and this year athletes will even battle an obstacle race course in Manila.
Medals will be awarded in eSports—a first for a multi-sport competition sanctioned by the International Olympic Committee, after the discipline featured as a demonstration sport at last year’s Asian Games in Jakarta.
Southeast Asia nations rarely shine at the Olympics, but the region’s two gold medallists from Rio 2016—Singaporean swimmer Joseph Schooling and Vietnamese shooter Hoang Xuan Vinh—are among the athletes competing in the Philippines. With AFP
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