PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — With President Macapagal-Arroyo watching in the company of some 80 fellow heads of state, the small Philippine team will march along with 204 other nations in the parade that will highlight what may go down as one of the most entertaining, most expensive opening ceremonies in the history of the Olympic Games.
Eleven athletes and 10 officials and coaches make up the national team marching during the kickoff rites set at the magnificent, $500 million Bird’s Nest , with boxing icon Manny Pacquiao at the head of the compact group as proud flag-bearer.
The Filipinos will wear the traditional barong tagalog dark pants and black shoes when they join sportsmen and sportswomen from the rest of the globe in the opening extravaganza which comes off the wraps when the clock strikes 8:08 in the evening before a television audience expected to reach almost four billion.
Even the parade of teams is not without a Chinese twist. Whereas before, teams will march in alphabetical order except for the host team which comes out last and Greece, birthplace of the Olympiad, which comes in first.
This time, the nations will be arranged according to the number of strokes it takes to write their names in Chinese. In other words, it will be in ascending order.
This means Guinea, whose acronym Ji needs two strokes, will enter the National Stadium behind Greece, while Zambia will enter just before China because it takes 14 strokes to write its acronym, Zan.
According to a bulletin, organizers will count the second character of a country’s name if the strokes in the first are the same as another country’s to decide the order.
Ms. Arroyo arrived in this booming, bustling capital last night after a four-hour flight via a Philippines Airlines jet, accompanied by First Gentleman Mike Arroyo , Pacquiao and wife Jinkee, Senator Gringo Honasan, Philippine Sports Commission Chairman William Ramirez and a few others.
And when she sets foot on the steps leading to the place where other presidents and other high-profile guests will converge and watch the whole shebang, she will become the first Philippine president to watch an Olympic opening.
She’ll have American president George Bush, French head Nicolas Srkozy and Japanese premier Yasuo Fukuda, among others, as fellow special guests of Chinese president Hu Jiantao, who will declare open the opening ceremony which is expected to last for about four hours.
While here, the First Couple will get to see two Filipino athletes in action. Ms. Arroyo, who’s supposed to leave the day after the opening ceremonies, has opted to stay for one more day to watch archer Mark Javier and shooter Eric Ang open bids in their respective events.
“Yes, she’s staying for one more day to watch them (Javier and Ang),” Chief of Mission Monico Puentevella told a Filipino sportswriter inside the Village yesterday.