The Jakarta Post
For the last seven days, host Indonesia and Asia have relished the “Inspiring Spirit and Energy of Asia” in the third Para Games the continent has ever held. And when the week-long event comes to an end today, the memory of women and men who defy their physical impairment to reach the heights in the sports event will last forever.
Kudos to all participating athletes for living up to the nation’s expectations, regardless of the final medal tally that continues to reveal a wide gap in sports development across Asia. Once again, China has proven to be the strongest powerhouse in the region with a collection of 161 gold, 84 silver and 55 bronze medals. South Korea, Iran, Japan and Uzbekistan were a distant second, third, fourth and fifth respectively.
Indonesia’s athletes emulated the success of their compatriots who competed in the Asian Games, collecting 30 golds, 41 silvers and 46 bronzes to finish sixth overall. The achievement far exceeds the target of 16 golds set by President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.
The outcome is, somehow, predictable, especially because Indonesia finished first in last year’s ASEAN Para Games in Kuala Lumpur . The commendable showing gives the nation a reason to cherish the occasion in the wake of the devastating earthquakes and tsunami in Central Sulawesi that have claimed about 2,000 lives and displaced thousands of others.
Most recently, a quake hit Bondowoso in East Java, leaving three dead. The temblor was also felt on Bali, where Indonesia is hosting the 2018 Annual Meetings of the International Monetary Fund-World Bank Group.
Like the meetings in Bali, the Asian Para Games is testament to Indonesia’s ability to organize a world-class event. The Indonesia Asian Para Games Organizing Committee (INAPGOC) has been made to labor to woo people into watching the continent’s best athletes fight for glory. Venues for popular sports such as badminton, swimming, athletics and wheelchair basketball were relatively full, but venues for other sports, such as lawn bowls, were nearly empty.
INAPGOC has worked together with the Jakarta Education Agency and the Social Affairs Ministry in bringing in students and communities of people with disabilities to the venues. The decision to hold the closing ceremony at Madya Stadium inside the Gelora Bung Karno sports complex, which is far smaller than the nearby Main Stadium, could be in anticipation of a low turnout.
Although the Madya Stadium has a capacity of 5,000 seats, the closing ceremony is expected to be as festive as the opening gala. Prominent singers like Judika and visually impaired Zizi Raziq, as well as South Korean girl group AOA are set to enliven the night. The South Koreans were appointed honorary ambassadors of the Pyeongchang 2018 Winter Olympics and Paralympic Games.
We can take up the ambassadorial job, too, by promoting equal rights for people with disabilities, including our Para athletes. Having successfully hosted the Asian Para Games, our next responsibility is to make sure equality for all prevails.