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11,000 athletes plunge into action

Sta. Cruz, Laguna — More than 11,000 athletes from 17 regions are eager to begin their medal campaign in style when the 2014 Palarong Pambansa blasts off  today at the newly refurbished Laguna Sports Complex here.

At stake in the week-long competition has 229 medals (88 golds, 88 silvers and 113 bronzes) in the secondary boys’ level, 275 medals (85-85-105) in the secondary girls, 221 medals (68-68-85) in the elementary boys and 230 medals (71-71-88) in the elementary girls’ division.

The bulk of the mints will come from centerpiece athletics, which will give out 34 golds in the high school division and another 30 in the elementary section while swimming will stake 30 in elementary and the same number in secondary.

Other big sources of golds are: swimming (60), taekwondo (36), gymnastics (34), arnis (28), badminton (16), chess (16), archery (16) and tennis (12), while the other events in the PLDT Home DSL-backed meet are boxing, baseball, softball, basketball, football, sepak takraw, table tennis and volleyball.

This annual grassroots multi-sport event will officially open tomorrow in a grand ceremony to be highlighted by parade of colors of all participating regions including host Calabarzon and the presence of Filipino boxing icon and Sarangani Congressman Manny Pacquiao and former President and current Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada.

Technical Education and Skills Developmnent Administration (Tesda) chairman Joel Villanueva will also give an inspirational message to athletes aspiring to become future national team members.

It also marked the first time that the games will go high-tech as Laguna Governor Jorge E.R. Ejercito Estregan and PLDT Vice President Gary Dujali recently signed an agreement making PLDT Home Broadband as major sponsor of the event.

PLDT Home Broadband will not only provide telecommunication facilities and wi-fi connections to some areas including the main hub but will also livestream some games in all SM malls in the province.

Pacquiao will also anchor the ceremonial torch relay that will be participated by Sochi Winter Olympics figure skater Michael Martinez, former national swimmer and television actor Enchong Dee, basketball star James Yap and Jericho Estregan, son of Gov. Ejercito-Estregan who is the team captain of La Salle’s track squad.

Television hosts Dyan Castillejo and Ginger Conejero and cage brothers Jeric and Jeron Teng serve as hosts in the opening ceremonies that will be preceded by a colorful land float parade, opening of trade fair and parade of athletes at the Laguna Sports Complex Track Oval.

“We’re promising nothing but a great, memorable opening ceremony,” said Ejercito during last night’s Governor’s night.

Hosting the event for the first time, Laguna renovated all 16 venues, including the 1,500-seater grandstand, rubberized tartan track oval, football pitch, softball and baseball diamonds, archery and rifle range, air-conditioned basketball gym and an Olympic-size swimming pool boasting of a 2,500 seating capacity.

It will house athletes and technical officials in 37 public schools in Famy, Pila, Liliw, Los Banos, Nagcarlan, Magdalena, Pangil, Victoria and Pagsanjan.