At around the end of this month the Philippines will play host to the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games, the major multi-sporting event of the region. This is the fourth time the country has taken up this duty, with the previous one being in 2005, and they have the honor of being the first SEA Games with significantly decentralized venues scattered around Luzon, rather than concentrating on a single city or location. The government and related sports organizing committees have already prominently hyped the New Clark City Sports Hub where the freshly-built athletes’ village and main events stadium stand, all costing many billions of pesos.
But there are expenses in the SEA Games budget that, when viewed with the rest of the items, raise some rather uncomfortable questions. The Philippine Star reports that an inside source has provided them with copies of the official but confidential budget allocation for the 2019 SEA Games, the total of which is dancing at around P6 billion pesos. There are some expenses under the section for the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) which comes across as incredibly costly, such as the pricing for both the SEA Games ceremonial cauldron and its foundation.
The cauldron, positioned at one corner of the New Clark City Athletics Stadium, cost P4.4 million in itself to design and build. What really boggles the mind is the P13.44-million price tag on the cauldron’s platform and support structure, plus another P6 million in related miscellany, all for a total of P55.92 million to make a one-time-use ceremonial fixture to light up at the start of the SEA Games. In contrast to the ready spending by the PHISGOC to furnish the ceremonial cauldron, they are reportedly slower in sending checks by which Filipino competitors would buy their equipment with. Several events claim they have yet to receive their PHISGOC funding.
Multi-sports events having a cauldron to ignite at the start of competition and then extinguish at the conclusion goes back to the mother of all such contests, the Olympic Games. The original Ancient Games held in Olympia, Greece saw the ceremonial flame created by focusing mirrors, with the Modern Games adding the thrilling torch relay from Olympia to the country and the city serving as the current Olympics host. While rather memorable when in use, these ceremonial cauldrons rarely if ever get repeat performances once the events they symbolize are done and move someplace else.
For the 2019 SEA Games opening ceremony when the over-$1 million cauldron gets lit, the organizers have arranged for top athletes to participate, with superstar young gymnast Carlos Yulo and boxing legend Manny Pacquiao reportedly tapped to be torchbearers and possible cauldron lighters according to Inquirer.net. Featured performers for the opening ceremonies, including Ryan Cayabyab and Lea Salonga, will collectively be compensated P73,251,550 from the SEA Games budget. Earlier plans to invite half-Filipino performers such as Bruno Mars or the Black-Eyed Peas (featuring apl.de.ap) were scrapped for being prohibitively expensive.
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