With some of the 30th Southeast Asian Games events slated to start on Sunday, Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (PHISGOC) chief operating officer Ramon "Tats" Suzara assured that the country is ready for its first hosting in 14 years.
Suzara said all venues are primed to host their respective events, as construction is set to end on Wednesday.
"Yes [we are], 100%, 101, 120, 150 ready. We just have to be positive. Even if it's the Olympics, there's an endless cycle of problems. But once the Opening Ceremony is done, we will mellow down. But what's important is to win gold medals," Suzara said.
The Athletes' Village, which will host some 9,000 representatives from the 11 participating countries, will also be officially unveiled on Thursday.
Suzara noted that there will be a total of 17,000 visitors from the other nations, which will definitely be a logistics nightmare for the organizers. Aside from member countries, delegates from the Olympic Council of Asia and two members of the International Olympic Committee will be observing the entire event.
Regarding the issue of traffic, Suzara said they will lean on the Metro Manila Development Authority and the Philippine National Police, who organized a test run last week.
The multi-million cauldron
Meanwhile, Suzara shrugged off criticisms against the cauldron, which reportedly costs P55 million, that will be used for the opening ceremonies on November 30.
The cauldron, built outside the Athletics Stadium in New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac, will be lit up simultaneously with an indoor opening spectacle at the Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan on Bonifacio Day.
"I didn't read [the report] because normally, I don't read the newspapers now, because if I do, I will just have a headache, and I will just be disappointed, since there is no truth to it," Suzara, who did not categorically confirming the actual cost of the cauldron, told ESPN5 on Monday afternoon in Makati.
"Well, the cauldron is not a cheap one. It's done by [the late Architect Francisco Mañosa]. It's a... it will become a historic monument for the games because after the games, in any games, we will continue to do a lot of activities in the New Clark City," clarified Suzara.
PHISGOC had its budget channeled through the government's sports ministry, the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC). Its chairman, William "Butch" Ramirez, also holds a position in the PHISGOC and concurrently is the country's chef de mission to the biennial regional sporting meet.
"We passed through government biddings. In fact, the reason everything became delayed because we had to pass through government bidding. We really went through stringent government processes," said Suzara.
Suzara also lamented how the organizers scrambled to adjust to the budget allotted for the Games. Aside from the late approval of the 2019 National Budget, their proposed budget was sliced from P7.5 billion to P6 billion.
"But we will go over this and host the games with flying colors for me and [our people] are also getting exhausted because [the hosting] is not so easy."
Suzara said the cauldron can also be used even after the Games are over.
"Well, it's a mark. It's a historic mark, just like in Qatar or in London, it became a monument. We still have the [ASEAN] Para Games, and we will use it. And maybe future games that we are hosting," mentioned Suzara.