By KRISTEL SATUMBAGA
Five athletes from boxing and rowing were among the first from the Philippine contingent to arrive in Tokyo, Japan Saturday for the Tokyo Olympics set to officially fire off July 23.
Boxers Nesthy Petecio, Carlo Paalam and Irish Magno, along with their coaches arrived from their training camp in Thailand while Eumir Felix Marcial landed on a separate flight coming from the United States exactly one week before their scheduled fights.
Rower Cris Nievarez and his coaches have also arrived from Manila, where he has been extensively training at the La Mesa Dam in Quezon City.
Barring any changes, the bulk of the 19-man PH team will arrive Sunday to usher their quest of winning the country’s first Olympic gold medal.
Among those are weightlifter Hidilyn Diaz, who will come from her training camp in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, swimmers Remedy Rule and Luke Gebbie from Texas, United States and Melbourne, Australia, respectively.
Weightlifter Elreen Ando, taekwondo jin Kurt Barbosa and shooter Jayson Valdez will also come from Manila, while pole vaulter EJ Obiena are scheduled to arrive on opening day from Formia, Italy.
Golfers Juvic Pagunsan, Yuka Saso and Bianca Pagdanangan, as well as skateboarder Margielyn Didal will arrive a few days before their events. Golf is set Aug. 4 to 7, and skateboarding street event on July 26.
Gymnast Carlos Yulo and judoka Kiyomi Watanabe are based in Japan and will come from their respective training camps.
Meantime, PH chef de mission said everything is almost available at the Athletes’ Village where the 19 Filipino bets will be staying.
“There are 48,000 kinds of meals to choose from – Halal, Japanese, American or Western food, name it, they’re all there.”
“You can run, jog or bike inside the village. There’re also laundry machines available to everyone inside the village,” he added.
But life won’t be easy for everybody due to health protocols.
All participants at the Tokyo Olympics—athletes, coaches, officials, media, and dignitaries, among others—are obliged to undergo two (96 and 72 hours before arrival) RT-PCR tests before leaving their respective countries.
Everyone will be subjected to Antigen tests upon arrival at the Japanese airports.
“No one will carry your luggage or your bags and nobody will push your cart but only among yourselves once you arrive at the airport,” Araneta said. “Everyone has to follow the protocols like wearing a mask, social distancing and there’s an everyday testing, a saliva test, while inside the premises [bubble].”
“Every movement is guarded and limited, you are not allowed to roam the city,” he said. “They cannot present or promote Japan, their own country, to the world. That is far different from the past Olympics.”
“Sight-seeing is not allowed,” added Mariano, who arrived with a four-member Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) secretariat team—team doctor Randy Molo, POC general manager and Secondary Olympic Attache Dinah Remolacio, Games Management Officer and Secondary CLO Martin Gregorio and Protocol Officer and Secondary Activity Monitoring Officer Jarryd Bello—last Tuesday via Narita airport.
“The washing of hands is being imposed, that’s how strict they are,” said Araneta from the 44-hectare Athletes Village located in Tokyo’s Harumi Waterfront District.
“As I said, jogging or cycling is allowed inside the village, but masks and social distancing are imposed,” he said.
All 19 Filipino athletes, their coaches and team leaders—whose training, qualification and preparation for the Olympics were supported by the Philippine Sports Commission—would be housed in the Athletes Village, according to Mariano.
But overall, Mariano said the Japanese are living up to expectations as ideal hosts.
“The Japanese people are very helpful despite these strict health protocols,” Araneta said.
The Filipino athletes and their coaches and team leaders are arriving in Tokyo in different batches based on their competition schedules.