The Jakarta Post
Youth and Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi might have been considered the happiest person in the country following Indonesia’s success in hosting the Asian Games and the Asian Para Games a few months ago.
That is, at least until a corruption case surrounding the Youth and Sports Ministry emerged last week.
Strong performances at the Games and Para Games restored the country’s pride in sports, as only a year ago it finished fifth at the 2017 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Kuala Lumpur, tallying 38 gold medals — the worst in the country’s history in the biennial event.
The disappointing result had a major impact on sporting systems, with the ministry dissolving Satlak Prima (Gold Program), a national sporting program for elite athletes founded in 2010.
Under the ministry, Satlak Prima’s main task was to groom athletes with medal-winning potential for international events.
With the program scrapped, the ministry’s training budget now goes directly to sports federations, meaning that each federation is fully responsible for constructing its own training programs and sending athletes to train and compete abroad.
The road to the Asian Games in August and September and the Asian Para Games in October was not smooth.
In January, troubles began to surface when sports federations made complaints after receiving fewer funds than expected.
The protesting parties argued that what they received was not enough to effectively prepare programs for the quadrennial events.
The Youth and Sports Ministry allocated a total of Rp 805 billion (US$55.3 million) — an increase from Rp 735 billion initially — to fund training programs for the two events.
The protests resulted in setbacks to overall preparations, but the parties eventually agreed to put the issue behind them, even though some federations did not get what they hoped for.
Sadly, poor planning seems to be in Indonesia’s DNA, especially when it comes to big and important sporting events, with the most common complaint by sports stakeholders being a lack of funds for proper training equipment and overseas training.
Despite the problems that occurred before the Games, the event’s organizer, the Indonesian Asian Games Organizing Committee (INASGOC), was in general optimistic about pulling off a successful event.
From road traffic to pollution, there were several challenges facing the Asian Games, yet INASGOC managed to convince the continent that it would stage a successful event, just like it did when it hosted the event for the first time in 1962.
“Insya Allah [God willing], we can achieve our targets of completing the infrastructure, being a great host and making big achievements,” Vice President Jusuf Kalla said 50 days before the Games.
The Games began with a grandiose stage and performance. Many saluted Indonesia for presenting such an entertaining opening ceremony.
Lucky for the host, the ceremony was followed by an equally successful showing in the medal count, with Team Indonesia finishing in the top four, exceeding its initial target of a top-10 finish. In 1962, when the competition was less competitive, Indonesia finished in second.
Indonesia performed strongest in its martial art of pencak silat — 14 of its 31 gold medals came from the sport.
However, the large number of medals evoked a mixed response, with some participating countries suggesting that they were a “bonus” handed to Indonesia.
“First of all, we should appreciate the hard work done by the athletes,” sports observer Joko Pekik Irianto told The Jakarta Post in a recent interview.
“However, of all gold medals that we won, they mostly came from non-Olympic sports. We need to think further on the matter because we’re heading to two important multisport events in the future,” said Joko, referring to the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines and the 2020 Olympic Games in Japan.
In tennis, mixed doubles pair Aldila Sutjiadi and Christopher Rungkat won a gold medal, the country’s first since the women’s team won gold in 2002.
The gymnastics team, which had never earned any medals, made history through Rifda Irfanaluthfi and Agus Prayogo, who won silver in floor routine and bronze in vault respectively. Rifda is now training for next year’s Tokyo Olympic qualifiers.
In sport climbing, which had its Asian Games debut this year, Indonesia won three gold medals. Climber Aries Susanti Rahayu in particular has impressed in wall climbing, winning at both the Games and at in the sport’s World Cup series.
Sport climbing will make its Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.
Indonesia is hopeful for a strong Olympic showing in the sport, in addition to its usual strengths in badminton and weightlifting.
However, as Indonesia is only strong in speed climbing, its athletes will have to rise to the occasion to have a shot at standing on the podium.
The Tokyo Games will feature three disciplines: speed climbing, bouldering and lead climbing. Speed climbing pits two climbers against each other, with each climbing a fixed route on a 15-meter wall. In bouldering, climbers scale a number of fixed routes on a 4 m wall in a specified time. In lead climbing, athletes attempt to climb as high as possible on a wall measuring over 15 m in height within a fixed time.
At the Games, each climber will compete in all three disciplines, with the final rankings being determined by the combined results.
At the 2018 Para Games, host Indonesia saw success, finishing fifth after winning 37 gold medals. At the 2017 ASEAN Para Games in Malaysia, Indonesia finished atop the medal table as the overall champion.
Despite all the praise and fanfare, the subject in the spotlight as the year comes to an end is a corruption case surrounding the sports ministry.
Mulyana, a ministry officer in charge of sporting achievements, was among several officials apprehended by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) during a nighttime operation in Jakarta on Dec. 18, as they reportedly received kickbacks related to a grant from the ministry to the National Sports Council.
The KPK announced it seized Rp 300 million in cash and a debit card for current accounts amounting to millions of rupiah in the operation.
This article was originally published in The Jakarta Post's print edition on Dec. 26, 2018, with the title "Tight budget, achievements, corruption mark year in sports".