Sunday, June 11, 2006

SUKMA controversy brewing (June 2006 - Malaysian Today)

SUKMA controversy brewing
PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi’s suggestion that national athletes be allowed to compete at the Malaysia Games at the closing ceremony of the 2006 Games in Kedah last Sunday, could well spark off another controversy over the eligibility rule.

While the Prime Minister’s suggestion was noble, as he wanted to see the Games attain international standards and recognition, the inclusion of national athletes, could mean depriving young talent from tasting early success to spur them on to greater heights.

However, the Honorable Prime Minister, had a ready-made solution to the situation, when he suggested that maybe different prizes could be given to national athletes and the newcomers.

Feasible, but could add further confusion to the Games, which is already being questioned for the wisdom of points system for medals and fourth placing attained in each sports, which is accumulated for the overall champion.

A case in point is Pahang, who had won 39 gold medals, 35 silver and 31 bronze, but finished fourth overall based on the accumulated points (where eight points for team and five for individual are awarded for gold, 5 and 3 for silver, 3 and 2 for bronze and 2 and 1 for fourth spot) as compared to Sarawak and Penang who won 35 gold, but finished second and third respectively overall, with for the 42 and 39 silver and 55 and 52 bronze wins respectively which saw them accumulate 502 and 472 points as compared to Pahang’s total of 420.

Besides, the inclusion national athletes would mean that it would be deviating from the original goal of the Games – which was to be ground to unearth and identify fresh talent for the future.

But when talking about overall standards of the Games on the decline, maybe it is food for thought to allow national athletes who are eligible in terms of their age (Under-21) to compete if they had failed to win gold medals in the Sea Games.

This would mean that States who have budding athletes who need exposure to become better will not hold back their athletes from competing at the Sea Games for fear that they will be ineligible for the Malaysia Games.

There was also suggestion by the Prime Minister to include Armed Forces, which should not be a problem and is infact a good move because then it provides than avenue for budding sportsmen and women to find employed in the Armed Forces and at the sametime have the benefit of top class facilities for their training.

The Armed Forces could well become another breeding ground for young athletes, just like the Police Force.

There was also a suggestion to get the Malaysian Universities Sports Council (Masum) to rejoin the Games (they withdrew three years ago) because they were unable to select the best athletes because States had the first choice of selecting them.

While on the surface it looks a good idea, but it may spark off yet another battle between the States and Masum for the right of athletes,

But Sports Minister, Datuk Azalina Othman Said, rightly put it when she said that all suggestions will be taken into consideration, including the Prime Minister’s proposals.

It is without doubt that it is time for review of the Games, especially on regulations on eligibility, status and transfers of athletes, following endless controversies on the matter with each Games.

It is about time to take the Games to the next level and reap the rewards for a more brighter future of sports in the country.

And with that in mind, Azalina wanted a forum where National Sports Council (NSC) as owners of the Games, together with athletes, officials, State Sports Council Directors, State Sports officers or exco members in charge of sports, the media and anyone who have their heart close to the Malaysia Games for the right reasons and want it to realise it’s fullest potential, to discuss the future of the Games at length and come up with some solid and worthwhile resolutions to take the Games to the next plateau.

As the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) were also organising a conference on the future of the Malaysia Games next month, Azalina felt that it would be a shame if NSC and OCM do not join forces.

And it has been agreed that a joint conference will be held where National and State Associations will also be involved and hopefully at the end of the conference, the Malaysia Games next in Terengganu in 2008 will take off to a different level, minus all the controversies, selfish interest of some, the politicking and the chase of gold medal overshadowing all the noble goals of the Games.

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