Sports as antidote to armed conflict
For the last few weeks, we have been bombarded by statements from the United States and China, both telling us in effect how much they are concerned about our welfare and security. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared “We have your back,” in case of aggression citing the Mutual Defense Treaty between the two countries. No matter how spin doctors try to justify it, it is clearly a vague and dusty document from the past. On the other hand, Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianhua said that attacking anyone “is not our policy,” and that China desires peace, stability and freedom of navigation in the South China Sea. But China continues to “build, build, build” within our exclusive economic zone. Mr. Ambassador, in the words of a popular song, you are killing us softly, reef by reef, island by island.
So, therefore, how should we face all these uncertainties?
First of all, let us not put too much weight on smooth and soothing talks from others. We must begin to think for ourselves, to get rid of our penchant for relying on handouts and hand-me-downs, and prepare for the worst with the limited resources at our disposal. Most important of all, let us not align ourselves with anyone, but at the same time, strive to keep the friendship of all. When elephants are on a collision course, it is best to keep out of the way lest we end up as tenderized meat in their wake.
My crystal ball shows that we will have an absence of armed conflict in the South China Sea, at least until 2023 for several compelling reasons.
In August this year, China is hosting the Fiba Basketball World Cup. Thirty-two countries, including China and the Philippines, have qualified for this all-important basketball event. It will determine the seven finalists that will move on to the Fiba championship round during the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo. For basketball-crazy Chinese and Filipino fans, how could an issue like freedom of navigation in the South China Sea be allowed to interfere with deciding world basketball supremacy? How could any country think of a shooting war when the important thing is shooting for the basket?
That is not all.
In November 2019, the Philippines will host the 30th Southeast Asian Games. It will be the fourth time we shall have this honor. We must prepare well if we are to be overall champions. Traditionally, host countries have the most advantage but it is important that we devote time and attention in providing our athletes with the best of training and facilities to ensure success. After poor showings in earlier SEA Games, we need overall supremacy to boost our sagging morale.
In July 2020, Japan will host the 32nd Summer Olympics. It will be the second time for Tokyo to handle the Games. For the Philippines, it represents another opportunity to finally win an Olympic gold medal. Our sports officials must realize this is a goal of a lifetime and everything must be done to see a dream come true — the raising of the Philippine flag to the tune of the national anthem in the Olympic world.
In February 2022, China will host the Winter Olympics with Beijing becoming the first city to welcome both the Summer and the Winter Olympic Games. China hosted the Summer Games in 2008. China will go all out to best previous host countries while showcasing its skills and expertise in winter sports.
Remember that last year, amid the tensions between North and South Korea, the South organized the Winter Olympic Games in Pyeongchang, with the North agreeing to participate in the formal opening ceremony as part of a unified Korean delegation. In fact, the sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un was a special guest at the Games. All these activities lowered temperatures in the Korean Peninsula and war was farthest from the thoughts of the participants and the people of both nations.
Finally, in September 2022, China again will handle the Asian Games for the third time. Hangzhou will be the site with China almost a sure overall winner in these games.
How can China possibly be thinking of armed conflict and aggression when it has so much more to gain in terms of world respect and admiration for another brilliant hosting of an Olympic event and the Asian Games?
Instead of armed conflict, let us have competition aimed at providing a better quality of life for our people. Instead of risking the destruction and annihilation of each other, let us fight our battles in the field of sports and in so doing, bring out the best efforts of our youth in a world of peace and prosperity.
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