Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Doha experience (December 2006 - Malaysian Today)

Doha experience

THE 15th Asian Games comes to an end today in Doha and while countries return either elated, contended or disappointed with their performance in the Games, the host themselves will be judged.

It is without doubt that the Doha Asian Games Organising Committee (DAGOC) have gone out of their way to make this Games successful mainly through the money splashed to a tune of about three billion US dollars.

So much so that all the important aspects of organising the Games has left in the experienced hands of organising personnel from the Sydney and Athens Olympics.

Qatar with the population of 700,000 of which only about 300,000 are Qataris, certainly had manpower woes and their approach to get hired hands was understandable.

However, European invasion of the Games in Doha, saw the Games lose the Asian spirit of friendliness, warmth and hospitality.

Many, be it athletes, officials, media or even foreign visitors to the Games have left or will leave Doha, disappointed with the way they have been treated.

I have covered the Hiroshima Asian Games in 1994 and Bangkok Asian Games 1998 and still cherish the memories of being treated as a guest with their warmth, friendliness and charm.

But here in Doha, all we got was arrogance and being treated like criminals.

Even the locals who were involved in the Games did not make it pleasant because of the natural rough nature they talk.

Malaysian officials, athletes and media personnel had complains from day 1 to the day they left of being treated badly.

To make it worse, the Greeks and Australians who were hired to run the Games even more high handed in their approach that it made many wonder if it was the Asian Games or the European Games!

It was the Games for Asians and we were made to feel like aliens at own Games.

The only hospitality shown during the Games was the volunteers and hospitality staff at the Protocol Lounges who comprised mainly of Asians.

And to make matters worse, these volunteers and hospitality staff were treated badly by the Europeans who were their heads or supervisors.

There were instances when Malaysian athletes and officials were prevented from joining the victory ceremonies, not allowed to walk out exit gates because it was only meant for accredited cars and asked to walk hundreds of meters around for the pedestrians exit, accreditation cards literally snatched by security cards to check and there were 101 don’ts.

Chief technical delegates who were running the respective sports, including Malaysians, were not even allowed to the arena to conduct their daily business.

Many of the security guards were following instructions like robots and did not use their discretion or common-sense when the situation warranted. Many did not have a clue of what the various abbreviations and numbers used on the tags for access.

To make it worse, their superiors be it Qataris or the Europeans, only made the situation worse by being impossible.

It is hoped such a situation does not happen again in the Asian Games. The Olympic Council of Asia have to seriously think about the capability of local population participation in managing the Games before awarding it.

The last thing we need is for the Asian Games to be run by Europeans and take the very essence of the Games to be truly Asian.

Already we have Germans, Americans, Kenyans, Ethiopians, Senegalese, English and France in the name of naturalization competing for countries in the Asian Games. Soon the Asian Games will no longer look Asian.

Yes we can get foreign expertise for instance the shows for the opening and closing shows, but even then, surely there are able Asians who can do and equally good job if not better.

Let us not sale our Games to the foreigners. Let us be proud of out Games and any milestones made, should belong to the Asians. The colonial days are long over and we certainly do not need to be treated as slaves and outcast in our very own Games.

Besides, the bitter experience here in Doha which as made a nightmare Games rather than an enjoyable and memorable one, the Malaysians will at least return that despite the adversities they managed to stay focus and deliver.

Malaysia will returned with eight gold medals, which bettered the previous Games in Busan’s achievement of six gold and or even surpass the best ever achievement in the Games history of seven gold at the Bangkok Games in 1966.

The total number of medals haul is also the best ever surpassing 30 achieved in Busan, while the silver medal haul to surpasses the best of 13 in Hiroshima.

The gold medal tally certainly could have been higher if not for upsets like in the bodybuilding, karate and the many silvers which were close seconds in the respective sports.

It could have been a better outing, but one which is satisfactory. However, there is plenty of work to be done to move on from where we have reached and a more dedicated effort from the national sports associations is required.

The Government has been funding generously and are expected to continue to do so with the achievements in Doha, but there are some sports who might be put on the mat and they have only to blame themselves.

The onus is now on themselves to rise and fight they way back for recognition for funding from the Government.

And National Sports Council INSC) is also expected to be tougher on national associations seeking funding, as they are expected only to deal and fund those who are managed well with sound development programmes and have proven results.

The time is long overdue for NSC to be cruel to be kind.

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