By NIMROD NL QUIÑONES
Recent developments have caused a major snag in the staging of the Ironman 70.3 this August 5.
Let me emphasize this, I support sports tourism and have been pushing it since my early days as a sports journalist in the 1990s, but I also believe that the greater good must prevail at all times.
The first snag that hit the race preparations was when Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña said that he will not allow the South Road Properties to be closed for the Ironman 70.3.
With the multi-million underpass construction on N. Bacalso Ave., the closure of the SRP for several hours will cause a horrendous traffic problem for those from the south or heading south.
For those, who do not go as far as Basak, Cebu City, you might not be able to relate to us who work and live near the area. Even with the SRP open, going around is still very difficult.
The Ironman is not the first major sporting event that was not allowed to use the SRP, but that does not make the mayor of Cebu City anti-sports as I know how much he has supported grassroots development all these years.
He is just being practical and I am not apologizing for him, because aside from being in no position to do so, there is nothing to apologize about.
With this first setback, the organizers were looking at going north instead for the bike stage of the triathlon event.
I was hopeful that there will be a way to bring the bike stage to the northern part of the province, but then again, the move hit another snag.
This is because Liloan Mayor Christina Garcia-Frasco said that she will not allow the roads to be closed since thousands will be affected if no alternative route will be available for those who will be travelling to and from the north.
Mayor Frasco’s reason is as sensible as that of Mayor Osmeña. Both have said that they support the event, but unfortunately, circumstances make it impossible to close the major highways.
To the supporters of sports tourism, do not lambast them for taking a stand for the thousands of others who have nothing to do with the race nor have any interest in it, but will be badly affected.
The organizers have to find a way to solve this.
When they do, that is the time they talk to the local government officials and offer them the solution and not present them with a problem and ask them to solve it.
A few years ago, I wrote an article about what the staging of the Ironman 70.3 event brings to Cebu’s economy. Based on my estimates, it brings a few hundred million pesos during the days leading to until after the event.
It definitely brings a windfall, but with the changing traffic situation and the ongoing projects that are hampering travel, we have to be practical with what can and cannot be done these days.
I hope that a real solution can be found, but the clock is ticking fast.
The real reason why we have this problem is the lack of foresight. We do not have enough roads to meet the current demands.
Whatever comes out of this, I believe it is time for everyone to sit down and think seriously about Cebu’s future not only in relation to sports tourism events, but about how we shall cope with the challenges of everyday living.
It is hard to find a win-win solution for Ironman 70.3, but someone might come up with one and show organizers and local chief executives how the flow of traffic won’t be paralyzed despite the road closures.
We still have much to learn to appreciate events like the Ironman 70.3, but there will be no shortcuts to this.
It will take years for the people to embrace the fact that these sporting events are not only enjoyed by the participants and the spectators, but also by many others who benefit from it.