Pole vault sensation EJ Obiena will no longer be Team Philippines’ flag bearer for the Tokyo Olympics, which is just 10 days away.
Philippine Olympic Committee Pres. Bambol Tolentino said as much Tuesday, citing the recent changes in the Games’ health protocols.
“Baka nga malamang, mapalitan ang male flag bearer natin,” he told the Philippine Sportswriters’ Association Forum webcast.
The long-time politician said that the organizers want the standard bearers to be in Tokyo 48 hours prior to the opening ceremonies on July 23.
Obiena will only arrive in Tokyo at 12:30 p.m. on the same day.
“Ni-require na ni Tokyo na ang flag bearers, dapat nandun na sila 48 hours before. Ang dating ni EJ is 12:30 ng 23,” Tolentino said.
Even if they will be able to secure an exemption, the 25-year-old may not make it in time for the rites due to the airport situation.
“‘Yung iba tumatagal ng five hours sa Tokyo pagdating sa airport due to whatever reason,” said Tolentino in the forum powered by SMART and presented by San Miguel Corp., MILO, Amelie Hotel Manila, Braska Restaurant, and PAGCOR.
“‘So kung ang dating ni EJ ay 23, 12:30 noon, kung na-lock siya sa airport sabihin natin four to five hours… Bitin. Ang program ng parade is 8 p.m.. So before 6, hahakutin na ‘yun sa athletes’ village,” he added.
“Parang bitin ‘yun. Kung makuha man ‘yung exemption na on the day [itself] ang dating niya, parang delikado pa rin. So mahirap na sumugal.”
Rebooking the flight at an earlier date was also an option, but there was difficulty in doing so. “‘Yun din sana isang option natin, rebook siya ng mas maaga. Hindi na raw kaya. Tsaka na-submit na ‘yung activity plan.”
There is no word yet regarding his replacement, although Tolentino said that the POC would reveal as much in the coming days.
“By Wednesday or Thursday, I will announce it,” he said. “I have to talk to the officials and check again the schedules. You know, we base it on the schedules of their games and practice games and availability.”
Judoka Kiyomi Watanabe, meanwhile, will remain as the other flag-bearer since she has been based in Japan.