EJ Obiena confirms he no longer will be the flag-bearer at the Tokyo Olympics 2021 on June 23. Much to his dismay, he had to withdraw due to a conflict in schedule. Due to the new COVID-19 protocols for the event, participants must be in Tokyo 48 hours before the opening ceremony.
Official Statement from EJ Obiena
In a Facebook post, the athlete expressed how disheartening the news was. “I proudly accepted the position to raise the flag of the country I was born and raised in, but there are things that are out of my control. I am greatly disheartened, to say the least, that I was withdrawn to be the Philippine flag bearer for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics due to new protocols and scheduling conflict,” wrote Obiena.
Despite not being able to carry the Philippine flag, he thanks everyone for their support. He continues, “We will still be holding our head high and reppin’ the red, blue and with pride. Thank you for all your support through this tough time. It’s what keeps me going.” The post ends with #Tokyo2020 and #StayingPositive.
Cause of Schedule Conflict
Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) President Bambol Tolentino announced Tuesday that the pole vaulter might not make it in time for the opening ceremonies. Obiena is set to fly in from Formia, Italy, on July 23 and should arrive in Tokyo by 12:30 PM. “Kung makakakuha man ng exemption na on the day ang dating niya, parang delikado pa rin,” said Tolentino. Because of the new protocols and the ‘bottleneck’ at the arrivals, they cannot risk anything.
Judoka Kiyomi Wanatabe will remain as the country’s female flag-bearer. Boxer Eumir Marcial is the newly appointed male flag-bearer as Obenia cannot rebook his flight anymore. Possible candidates for this position included boxer Carlo Paalam, golfer Juvic Pagusan, and swimmer Luke Gebbie. The choice will depend on flight and competition schedule and athlete’s availability.