The recently-concluded Tokyo Olympics was indeed unlike any other, mainly due to the great uncertainty caused by the pandemic and the amazing performance of Team Philippines.
There’s no doubt that host country Japan and all the participants deserve all the accolades for the tremendous efforts to ensure the success of the Summer Games amid fears of another postponement and the COVID restrictions imposed.
It certainly is not easy to be in the midst of extensive preparations and athletic training when there is always the possibility that the much awaited sports event could be postponed anew or cancelled outright, depending on the situation caused by the raging pandemic.
But Filipinos are thankful the Tokyo Olympics finally pushed through, primarily because of the unprecedented result. The Philippines finally earned its first-ever gold medal, along with two silvers and a bronze, thanks to the heroics of weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, and boxers Nesthy Petecio, Carlo Paalam, and Eumir Marcial.
Our country’s medal haul in Tokyo that surpassed the three-bronze record set in 1932 at the Los Angeles Olympics will certainly go a long way in boosting national pride. And our feat in the Tokyo Olympics will again inspire the Filipino youth to take up sports seriously when pandemic restrictions are eventually lifted.
As chairman of the Senate youth and sports committee in the late ’80s and early ’90s when I was then the nation’s youngest senator, I have come to realize the impact of amazing sports feats and how it can inspire young people.
Those times in 1991 were unforgettable. Sprint queen Lydia de Vega was at the top of her game and I was deeply involved in extensive preparations for various sport events as our country was also the host then of the Southeast Asian Games.
Our program, Create a Sports Hero, had mobilized immense private sector support to further ensure not only the success of our country’s hosting of the SEA Games then, but also the success of our athletes. I remember how we encouraged students to write inspirational letters to our athletes and assure them of our whole-hearted support and fervent prayers.
The sense of national pride, unity, and jubilation we experienced then is no different from the exhilaration we now feel from the terrific achievements of our athletes in the Tokyo Olympics.
Our achievements would undoubtedly inspire the Filipino youth to engage in sports and physical activities. Engaging in sports undoubtedly develops character, self-confidence, discipline, respect for rules, sense of accomplishment, willingness to go through sacrifices. It even helps fight depression and boosts mental health.
There’s no dispute on the importance of sport and physical activity. So important indeed that the United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) stressed in Article 1 of its 1978 Charter: “The practice of physical education and sport is a fundamental right for all.”
The UNESCO International Charter of Physical Education and Sport, adopted by the General Conference at its 20th session in Paris on Nov. 21, 1978, also said “it is clearly evident that physical education and sport are not confined to physical well-being and health but also contribute to the full and well-balanced development of the human being.”
Extensive research and countless committee hearings of the Senate committee I headed also revealed the importance of sport activities to one’s physical and psychological well-being.
In fact, the absence of sports or physical activity can result in serious consequences to one’s health. Around 2 million deaths per year are attributed to physical inactivity, according to the World Health Organization (WHO) as it warned that “a sedentary lifestyle could very well be among the 10 leading causes of death and disability” throughout the world.
“Sedentary lifestyles increase all causes of mortality, double the risk of cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, and obesity, and increase the risks of colon cancer, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, lipid disorders, depression and anxiety,” the WHO said.
To add more meaning to the Philippines’ achievements in Tokyo, it certainly would make sense for all able-bodied Filipinos to engage in sports and physical activities as soon as the situation permits.