For an entire week, the Philippine Olympic Committee celebrated Olympic Day 2020 in a manner unprecedented throughout the history of the annual affair observed simultaneously by all member-countries of the International Olympic Committee.

Although done within the confines of social media due to the government restrictions brought about by the global Coronavirus (COVID-19) health crisis, this year’s Olympic Day festivities shone brighter compared to its previous editions which were annually scheduled every June 23, the founding day of the modern Olympic Games.

In fact, more athletes from a wide range of sports were able to participate this time as they further understand the value of Olympism with Respect, Friendship and Excellence as its core.

“The only way to lose the battle against the pandemic is to lie back and allow it to consume us. Those of us in the Olympic movement must not let this happen,’’ said POC president Abraham “Bambol’’ Tolentino.

“We must be educated on how to fight it, and the first thing to do is to be active, healthy and strong just like our athletes. The POC will lead the way,’’ added the country’s cycling chief and congressman of Cavite’s eighth district.

The POC, indeed, got the better of the pandemic after holding a series of online activities during the weeklong event that ended June 30 in partnership with the Athletes Commission, Philippine Olympians Association and the Olympic Solidarity.

The digital celebration kicked off with a pre-event virtual press conference on June 22 with Tolentino, POC secretary general and lawyer Edwin Gastanes, POA president Gillian Akiko Thomson Guevara, POA member Stephen Fernandez, Athletes Commission chairman Jessie Khing Lacuna.

More than 50 Filipino athletes from various sports participated in Olympic Day PH Move Challenge with Jamie Christine Lim of karatedo, Billy Joel Valenzuela of arnis, weightlifters Kristel Macrohon and Roanne Beltran, cycling’s Gerald Valdez and Jeffrey Regino of obstacle course racing topping the contest.

Obstacle Course Racing under the Pilipinas Obstacle Sports Foundation was featured during the celebration as well as special Olympic Day workouts that highlight the athleticism of athletes from the Philippine Rugby Football Union and Kurash Sports Federation of the Philippines.

It likewise featured a live international workout with Olympians organized by the IOC across 20 time zones in Instagram, which IOC president Thomas Bach described as the world’s biggest digital Olympic workout.

The Webinar Series: Olympic Day edition was hosted by Thomson-Guevara with Olympic silver medalist Hidilyn Diaz of weightlifting, 1992 Olympic silver medalist Stephen Fernandez of taekwondo and IOC member Mikee Cojuangco-Jaworski, an Asian Games equestrian champion, sharing their experiences as athletes and influence of sports in their lives.

Thomson-Guevara is a three-time Olympian and seven-time Southeast Asian Games gold medalist.

Every June 23, Olympic Day is celebrated around the world with hundreds of thousands of people, young and old, participate in sports activities, such as marathons, races, exhibitions, music and educational seminars.

The event has aided the spread of Olympic values to every corner of the planet with the National Olympic Committee (NOC) in every member nation of the IOC organizing its own version of the festivities.

Introduced in 1948, the Olympic Day is a symbolic anniversary to commemorate the birth of the modern Olympic Games on June 23, 1894 at the Sorbonne in Paris. The objective of the Olympics was to promote participation in sports across the globe regardless of age, gender and athletic ability.

Olympic Day has been associated with Olympic Day Runs all over the world in the last 30 years where the global gathering grew from 45 participating NOCs in the first edition in 1987 to 150 NOCs from the five continents of the world.

Based on the three pillars “Move, Learn and Discover’’ as well as the Olympic Values of “Excellence, Respect, and Friendship,”  NOCs have been deploying sports, cultural and educational activities as Olympic Day develops into much more than just a sports event.

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