What does it take to be a sports city?

By Charles Lim

The first word that comes to my mind is PASSION.

I have often wondered, when visiting sports facilities in scores of cities in the Philippines throughout the years, how they could be left to rot and deteriorate to the condition they are in right now. There is anger and exasperation which I cannot direct them at anyone as the neglect has long happened.

It is impossible to hope for sports or even tourism to be the number one priority of one administration passed on to the next and on to another and another. Morbidly, the enthusiasm of one mayor or governor did pass on in yesteryears. The passion died, the standard of sports wilted, the sports venues neglected.

Years passed and a sports minded president, governor or mayor comes along and tries to revive sports and  tourism.

Without a doubt, Mayor Felipe Antonio Remollo of Dumaguete City, in his short span as top administrator of this city of genteel people, has plotted and built a strong reputation for Dumaguete as a sports tourism destination, simply with his passion for sports.

Since 2016 when he was re-elected Mayor, the city has hosted scores of local and national sports events, even attracting hundreds of foreign participants too. Amongst the forefront were activities and tournaments in beach volleyball, dragon boat races, frisbee, archery, baseball and marathons.

The City of Dumaguete was eventually recognized as Event Organizer of the Year from 2015- 2018 for three successive years by the prestigious Philippine Sports Tourism Awards. Mayor Remollo became the first public Sports Tourism Personality of the Year in 2019.

As some cities suffer from urban decay, sports centers, stadia and training complexes become virtual examples. City elders cling on to old memories. The Rizal Memorial Stadium, Rizal Coliseum and its surrounding complex is a classic example. Built in 1927, it struggled to be maintained, although it hosted the 1954 Asian Games. and the Southeast Asian Games in 1981 and in 2005.

In 2017 when the Philippines was awarded the hosting of the 2019 SEAGames, funds and cement were poured into the complex to prepare it for hosting of some sports events during the SEAGames. Quick fix renovations and make-over made the courts and pitches in playable condition. However, and ultimately, the iconic 2019 opening ceremony was held at Philippine Arena in Bulacan and the closing at the brand new stadium at New Clark City, many many miles away from host city Manila.

Sadly, I have not come across any urban regeneration plans of Manila giving due recognition to the Rizal Memorial Stadium and the complex but instead we hear of a plan to demolish the sports venues and build a swanky mall and residential high rise condominiums.

New venues must rise for sports development. New hotels, airports and tourist attractions such as theme parks must be built to boost tourist arrivals.

When Mayor Remollo first revealed plans of Dumaguete Smart City, we hope that he will include modern sports facilities that will benefit the ordinary folks of Dumaguete with bike lanes, jogging paths, a frisbee park, skateboard park, proper triathlon and marathon courses combining the new and old city proper and a smart complex to launch watersport races from kayaking, dragon boat and more upscale regattas. Along these thoughts there will be interested investors for a water park, and perhaps a marine life museum displaying the deep-rooted synergy of Dumaguete’s oceanic heritage and love for sea sports.

Best of luck, Mayor. We hope more mayors will dare to dream and prosper with your kind of passion.