The Jakarta Post
The 2018 Asian Para Games will open in a few hours. It is the third edition of the regional sporting event for athletes with disabilities, which expects to see 2,831 athletes from 42 countries competing for 546 gold medals in 18 sports.
In emulating the successful organization of the 2018 Asian Games in August, Indonesia is once again aiming high in the Para Games as both competitor and host. Athletes from China, Japan and South Korea dominated the first and second Para Games, which is likely to be repeated in this edition.
Given its lack of public infrastructure and facilities for people with disabilities, hosting the Para Games is definitely much more challenging for Jakarta than hosting the Asian Games. To facilitate the transportation of athletes from the athletes village to the event venues, the organizer is providing 300 disability-access Transjakarta buses, consisting of 200 low-floor and 100 high-floor vehicles. The Jakarta Police have extended the odd-even traffic policy — except on weekends — to meet the maximum 50-minute travel time for athletes.
This evening’s opening ceremony might not be as grand as the Asian Games’, but the performances of Indonesia’s best musicians and artists are certain to enliven the nearly-three-hour gala. A minute of silence will be observed at the beginning of the ceremony for the victims of the Sept. 28 earthquake and tsunami in Central Sulawesi.
The disaster that struck Donggala regency and the city of Palu is a sad prelude to the Asian Para Games, as were the Lombok earthquakes that preceded the Asian Games by mere weeks. The athletes from Lombok set aside their grief to perform at their best in the Asian Games, while other national athletes rose in a spirit of national unity. We send our prayers and strength to our athletes from Central Sulawesi, as well as to all national para athletes, so that they, too, may stand together as the pride of our nation.
It has been reported that President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, who will open the Para Games, has prepared a surprise for the athletes. In several meetings with our athletes, the President has also expressed his confidence that they can claim at least 16 gold medals to finish among the top eight countries. In the Asian Games, Indonesia won nine golds, 11 silvers and 18 bronzes to finish ninth. The government has also prepared cash bonuses equal to those awarded to the country’s Asian Games medalists.
Home crowd support is pivotal to our athletes, and Para Games tickets for several favorite sports like para swimming and badminton have sold out.
We hope the Asian Para Games will not only open our eyes to our brothers and sisters’ sporting achievements, but also serve as a lesson for the government, the private sector and the public at large on realizing equal opportunities and disability rights.
We often mistreat people with disabilities — often unconsciously — by looking at them with pity. Rather than sympathy, what they deserve is our respect: the very same respect we give to anyone who pursues and fulfills their dreams.