September 21, 2019
Goodbye … and hello.
It will be a mixed sad and happy scenario when the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) raises its curtains in elaborate ceremony at the New Clark City Stadium in Capas, Tarlac.
Sad, because the inaugural rites will serve as a way for the 11,000 or so athletes, coaches, officials and guests to say adios to the 85-year-old Rizal Memorial Sports Complex (RMSC) that was the venue for the most memorable moments in Philippine sports, including three editions of the biennial conclave the past five decades.
Happy, because at the same time we welcome the arrival of the New Clark City (NCC) Stadium as the successor to the RMSC, also popularly known “The Grand Dame” from the time it was built in 1934.
“Yeah, if the reason for coming out with this modern complex would serve the purpose, then let it be,” Clark Development Corp. President and CEO Noel Manankil said during last Monday’s Scoop Forum special session held at the Royce Hotel inside the NCC compound.
“When completed that would really serve the purpose of this new arena, to satisfy our long-time dream of having a stadium of international standard should we decide to bring back the SEA Games this shore or, perhaps the bigger Asian Games and, who knows the Olympic Games,” Manankil told his hosts in the public service forum organized by the Sports Communicators Organization of the Philippines, referring to the 2030 Asiad, which the government is reportedly interested in hosting.
“Of course, we still have a lot of things to do as far as playing host to the Asian Games is concerned, but we still have 11 years to prepare, I believe we can also succeed bringing it (the Asiad) here,” Bases Conversion Development Authority Vice President and Athletes’ Village Mayor Arrey Perez, who also appeared as guest along with Gen. Joel Coronel, Central Luzon PNP Regional Director, butted in.
Manankil, Perez and Coronel, meanwhile assured that Clark is 98 per cent ready for the staging of 17 sports, including medal-rich athletics and aquatics.
“Construction of new venues and the rehabilitation of the existing ones have almost been completed except for some small details in preparation,” Manankil attested. “Konting mga kuntil-butil na lang at puwede nang simulan ang Games bukas.”
Manankil said athletes representing the national teams in athletics and aquatics (swimming, diving and water polo) have chances of sampling the track and field stadium and aquatics center since September 1 and all expressed satisfaction with the standards.
Coronel, for his part, said everything in regards to security has been been set in place.
The Rizal Memorial Sports Complex was built in 1934 in a huge property donated to the City of Manila by the rich Vito Cruz family (hence the former name of the street it was located) specifically to serve as hub of the 10th and final edition of the Far Eastern Games, precursor of the now Asian Games.
From there on Grand Dame, known simply as Memorial to the ordinary men on the streets, continued to be the bastion of greatness playing host to the glorious and most memorable moments in Philippine sports and venue, too, even to non-sporting events like concerts and prayer rallies.
In December the year it was built, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and a US Major League All-Star baseball team played at the Dame’s ballpark where the two icons registered the first homeruns that are today archived on the walls. That was also the day when the Babe suffered the humiliation of being struck out by local hurler Armando Oncinian, patriarch of baseball-playing family from nearby Cavite province.
It was 20 years later though in 1954 when the Grand Dame achieved her full glory during the country’s hosting of the Second Asian Games where the Philippines scooped up 14 gold medals in a second place finish to powerhouse Japan, which took 38.
Three decades and seven years later in 1981 after President Ramon Magsaysay opened and closed the Second Asiad, it was President Ferdinand Marcos’ turn to preside over the staging of the 11th SEA Games, also at the “Old Reliable” Rizal Memorial where a dashing 16-year-old pretty lass from Meycauayan, Bulacan, Lydia de Vega regaled him and the crowd by winning the 200 and 400 meters in record times on the way to a decade domination of her favorite events as “Asia’s fastest woman.”
Still a decade later, the biennial meet among Southeast Asia’s finest athletes, returned to this shore and and bucking natural and man-made calamities that struck the nation, the Philippines, led by swimmer Eric Buhain, again, rose from the grave to end up second overall behind Indonesia, losing the general championship by a solitary gold, 91-92.
And 14 years ago in 2005, the Dame again bore witness to the Filipinos’ ruling the 23rd edition of the Games, ending a 42-year wait that started in 1977, the year the country was admitted to the SEA Games Federation fold.
Credit belongs to : www.manilatimes.net