The Jakarta Post
The Southeast Asian (SEA) Games will kick off this evening in the Philippines. Senator Manny Pacquiao, a former world boxing champion, will bear the torch that will light the cauldron in the opening ceremony. Indonesia is fielding 841 athletes who will compete in 51 of the 56 medal sports. When sending them off on Wednesday, President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo expressed the hope that they would finish in at least second place in the medal tally. This is a tall order, as Indonesia ranked only fifth in the last two editions of the biennial event.
As an incentive, Jokowi promised cash bonuses to all Indonesian medalists, although the amount will be smaller than the rewards for athletes who won medals in the Asian Games at home last year. Jokowi expects the same spirit that helped Indonesia finish fourth in the Asian Games in 2018 to prevail in Manila.
Indonesia aims for 45 gold medals in the SEA Games, down from its initial target of 54 golds. Badminton, track and field, weightlifting and speed climbing are the sports in which Indonesia hopes to win gold medals.
The target, however, is lower than that of our regional competitors. Malaysia, which won the 2017 SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur, has set its sights on winning 70 golds, so has Vietnam. Host the Philippines is poised to top the final medal standings with 90 to 100 golds. Meanwhile, regular champion Thailand is eyeing 120 golds.
Looking at the respective targets that the Southeast Asian nations have set, Indonesia’s goal is very modest and not enough to meet its ambition to finish second overall.
Poor preparations of the host for the SEA Games will exacerbate Indonesia’s slim chance of performing at its best. Reports of corruption have tainted the hard work of the committee mandated to organize the Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 event, not to mention complaints about poor services filed by foreign teams who arrived early for the Games.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported on “training rooms that look like unfurnished condo units, press conference venues that look like crime scenes and even restroom cubicles with two toilet bowls”.
Ramon Suzara, chief operating officer of the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc), said issues surrounding unfinished venues, food, logistics and accommodation had all been dealt with days before the SEA Games’ formal opening at Philippine Arena in Bocaue, Bulacan.
Indonesian Youth and Sports Minister Zainudin Amali has told Team Indonesia to focus on competing and ignore the flawed preparations. “To all athletes, I want you all to stay focused on the competitions, and to not concern yourselves with other things. Don’t be burdened by the reports [of mishaps surrounding the Games],” he said.
Hiccups preceding a huge multisport event like the SEA Games are common. However, no athlete can blame the glitches for their substandard performance.
Learning from the Asian Games success, Indonesian sportsmen and women should maintain the same fighting spirit in the Philippines to prove that their extraordinary achievement in the Asian Games last year was no fluke.
Mabuhay to the Philippines and enjoy the Games.