I don’t normally give a rat’s ass about sports, but the Southeast Asian Games are making the headlines. First of all, the focus seems more about the number of medals won, instead of the individual achievements of our athletes: RP gold haul now at 49 is the main focus of too many reports. The result has been the various papers trumpeting that the Thai Prime Minister supposedly accused the Philippines of cheating: Thai official claims RP is cheating -Thaksin can’t believe SEA Games results (Philippine Daily Inquirer); Thai premier hits Ã¢â‚¬ËœriggingÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ of Games (The Manila Times); SEA Games rigged, Thai PM complains (Manila Standard-Today); RP pulls away despite protests, disqualification (Daily Tribune); Biased judging rap mars RP gold haul (Malaya Newspaper); DonÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t blame usÃ¢â‚¬â€œPhilsoc to Thaksin (Business Mirror).
All directly or indirectly fan the flames of popular outrage over statements made by the Thai PM. But what did the Thai PM really say? Here’s a roundup of foreign coverage: the Associated Press says Thai premier lashes Philippines for favoring its athletes at Games and Controversies abound in track and field at Southeast Asian Games; the Bangkok Post says PM upset by Games ‘bias’.
In general, Philippine newspapers have been careful to point out that Thaksin never actually said the Philippines cheated: the Inquirer story tries to present this rather nuanced distinction as follows:
Thaksin indicated that the Philippines had made accumulating gold medals a greater priority than upholding the sporting spirit at the 23rd staging of the biennial event, leading to Thai participants losing out in unfair scoring.
“Normally, I have no time to watch sports but I often watched these Games and kept thinking ‘why do results turn out to be that way?’ I don’t know what to say,” he told reporters yesterday.
“I have been following the SEA Games closely and believe that the SEA Games should exist to help athletes lift their standards,” Thaksin said. “It should not be about winning gold medals.”
While Thaksin stopped short of naming the Philippines, he said he was disappointed by the Games and might raise the medal issue on the sidelines of the December summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Malaysia.
The other Philippine papers also made the distinction clear. Was the Thai PM simply smarting over Thai athletes not doing as well as expected, or did he have a concrete basis for his thinking undiplomatically aloud? The real -and troublesome- story, it seems to me, which also explains the Thai PM’s statements, is this one: Buenavista disqualified as Thais rule athletics. The story says,
Cheered by a roaring crowd at the age-old Rizal Memorial Stadium, Buenavista raced wide and into the path of the rallying Thai Boonthung Srisung in a sprinting duel in the last 50 meters to secure the victory.
Thailand immediately put the outcome under protest which officials later upheld…
Representatives from Singapore, Indonesia and Brunei comprised the jury and made their decision in the presence of Maurice Nicholas, the long-time IAAF secretary-general.
Buenavista had a slim lead going into the final 150 meters and raced wide as both runners entered the final bend. Buenavista kept on glancing at the Thai and clearly blocked Boonthung when he tried to pass the Filipino.
That’s foul behavior in sports terms. So we seem to have some chest-thumping by a Thai PM with a basis for suspecting Filipinos of caring more about winning than how they play the game, while taking (unfair) advantage of the Philippines’ political notoriety because of the incumbent president’s political woes. (Update: I neglected to point out Jove Francisco’s comprehensive blogging on the games: Part 1, then Part 2, and Part 3 and Part 4 have it all. Jove has been following the games and is more familiar with people who follow the SEA Games, and so can be trusted to distinguish emotion from the real issues; he points out, for example, that the disqualified Filipino runner, Buenavista, reacted to his disqualification in a very gentlemanly and sportsmanlike manner; he -and comments in his blog- point to cases of unsportsmanlike behavior on the part of some Thai athletes, and the apparent existence of all sorts of controversies involving results in previous SEA Games).
In other news, One in three want to leave for other countries Ã¢â‚¬â€ survey (more on the survey from PCIJ). Garci’s lawyers comment on his appearance before the House, on Garci’s possibly having been a temporary flight steward (What? Uniffors explains), while the disappeared former NBI official Ong may reappear.Ã‚Â The Daily Tribune screams that a controversial ex-Agriculture Department official is back but in hiding. At the rate people are disappearing, surfacing, disappearing again, the whole Garci case is resembling a bumbling game of Whack-a-Mole (play it here).
In the punditocracy, my column for today is Puerto Princesa’s concerns. Max Soliven proclaims Merceditas Gutierrez the best choice for Ombudsman. Tony Abaya puts forward a detailed timeline of Garcillano’s travels; Connie Veneracion is furious over Bayan party-list Rep. Satur Ocampo’s rehabilitating San Juan Mayor JV Ejercito; Fel Maragay writes of the deadline given by the Black and White Movement to the Vice-President (which has expired -the deadline, I mean); Dong Puno grumbles over a tightening up on secondhand vehicle registration taking place only now; Gail Ilagan responds to criticisms over her previous characterizations of GI’s.
In the blogosphere, RG Cruz isn’t sure Garci will appear before the House.Ã‚Â ExpectoRants on coins; Punzi on presidential immunity; kottke.org points to the web release of a free Physics textbook; Big Mango on what the country needs:
The problem with convincing people that you have a better product is saying how different are you from the same class without negatively attacking your competing brand. Its a class act, certainly. Politics and political ideas are no different. What Filipinos need are the following keywords (not necessarily in this order): leadership, vision, professionalism, team building, economy and hope. Anybody who can deliver these things and inspire our people will win the political war and will certainly bring sensibility to our times. Thats the simple and complex answer.
Zenpundit has an apt musing on a statement made by House Speaker Sam Rayburn to House Democrats on the eve of Dwight D. Eisenhower’s landslide victory:
Remember, any jackass can kick over a barn, but it takes a carpenter to build one.
Washington Note links to the new US plan for victory in Iraq, and how George W. Bush is apparently trying to debunk arguments made by James Fallows.
For the nicest capsule reviews ever blogged, take a look at The Superblessed Guide to the Philippine Blog Awards Semifinalists Part 3.