Monday, November 21st, 2011
THE Indonesia SEA Games organising committee pushed the medals presentation ceremony for the men’s 4x400m from the same day to the following day, it has emerged.
The reason for doing so was not immediately known. And our officials at the Games remain in the dark.
Still, the leadership of the Malaysian contingent and the National Sports Council (NSC) are accountable.
Strangely, no one, including the NSC, the Malaysian Amateur Athletics Union (MAAU), the chef-de-mission of the Malaysian contingent Datuk Naim Mohamad and our media at the Games failed to question the ceremony switch.
The blame was put squarely on the MAAU, whose officials did not explain the debacle either.
Rather, they allowed themselves to be set upon by the nation and athletes, notably Noraseela Khalid who after winning her fourth SEA Games 400m hurdles, slammed the shoddy treatment the winning 4x400m quartet suffered at not being allowed to receive their medals because they had to go home.
Back here, the issue of the quartet returning home before receiving the gold medal drew flak from Members of Parliament in the Dewan Rakyat.
Sports officials should have known that it’s the norm for medals presentation of an event to be held on the same day not sooner than 40 minutes to the end of the day's programme.
So, how come no one knew about this protocol? It has been a routine all this while and incredibly 26 editions of the SEA Games later no one is aware of it.
The obvious people to direct the query would have been the organising committee and the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF) delegate.
Had they done so, we would have known by now why the 4X400m quartet of Muhammad Yunus Lasaleh, S. Kannathsan, Schzuan Ahmad Rosley and P. Yuvaaraj were not on the rostrum.
Instead, the blame game goes on. To be sure, the MAAU was clearly at fault for not pushing the matter with the relevant authorities.
And now, swamped with scorn, the MAAU is being forced into making a humiliating apology to the athletes and the nation. The NSC thinks it’s in the clear.
Take me to task, but I will reaffirm that some officials at international sports meets are as useful as an ashtray on a motorbike.
Just so you think I am an armchair critic, I say this with conviction and experience, having been a communications and media officer with the International Hockey Federation. It was my job to know every component of a tournament.
Surely, at the 26th SEA Games in Palembang/Jakarta, the track and field and NSC officials had to know that at every multi-sports meet, the medals presentation of an event is always held on the same day?
Surely, they knew that if it didn’t happen, the first thing to do was to contact the organising committee and subsequently make arrangements to retain the squad there for the presentation ceremony the next day.
Don’t even go into cost of keeping the four lads there for a day. The cost of holding them there for an additional day would not rile up anyone especially after Deputy Youth and Sports Minister Datuk Razali Ibrahim discloses in Parliament today how much of the taxpayers’ money had been spent on sending sports officials and observers to the SEA Games.
Consider this: 608 athletes, including 253 under Category B, and 261 officials – a ratio of one official for every 2.33 athletes – form the official contingent to the Games.
Accreditation cards had also been issued to 279 observers and 59 VIPs, swelling the number of non-athletes to a staggering 599.
MAAU did nothing wrong to book the athletes to return the following day after the event because no one would have thought the medal presentation would be postponed to the following day.
The organising committee and the IAAF delegate did not carry out their responsibilities.
The MAAU, however, flopped in not making arrangements to retain the squad after they were told about the postponed medals presentation ceremony.
This is when you think how much worse it could get. The plight of the newly-installed SEA Games 4x400 metres gold medallists gets us thinking how much longer taxpayers can tolerate incompetence by officials.
Sports officials on jollies at the SEA Games, expensive non-producers, have sparked yet another parable for all that is wrong with team management: a tale of ineptness and waste that those responsible should be shamed.
The word ‘blunder’ is over used. This is, however, a true blunder. But so casual is the attitude to the letdown of the four lads that no one is being held to account, and the careers of those involved carries on as if nothing had gone wrong.
The quartet of Lasaleh, Kannathsan, Rosley and Yuvaaraj had promised to deliver the ultimate performance, the one which would lift them beyond compare. That performance was delivered.
Their gold medal achievement was always about the underdog. They bowed. They beamed with sheer pleasure. They knew they had achieved something stunning.
The boys were B-listers having failed to meet the timing of the third placed team in the last Games, which if they did would have earned them A category under the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) qualification.
The MAAU’s heart might be failing. The MAAU might even be on its way to intensive care, but the ‘shock’ of this quartet’s splendid victory will hopefully resuscitate the competitiveness and spirit of our athletes and bring team management back to life and usefulness.
Till then, everything smacks of extraordinary failure of leadership: that the athletes were not on the rostrum to bask in their moment of glory for the medal presentation ceremony; that they had to fly back because their tickets had been booked for the return flight; that the MAAU’s attempts to reschedule their flight were futile.
It was flawed from the outset and reeks of poor planning and disrespect for the athletes.
Clearly, it shows that the MAAU leadership is weak and has lost credibility, especially when its own athletes vent their frustration at the state of affairs of athletics in the country.
The nation’s fury burst out in a flood of invective of a kind the MAAU and certain sports bodies are accustomed to hearing.
No one was saying sorry. Everyone had an excuse and there was even this ludicrous proposal by chef de mission Naim Mohamad to hold a special function to honour the quartet in Kuala Lumpur.
“We will set up a podium and they will be presented with their medals after which the national anthem will be played. It will be held exactly like the medal presentation ceremony.” Sir, I trust you will be standing by their side during the ceremony.
Sir, how come you did not know that the medal presentation ceremony had been changed? You told the media: “This has all happened because of the last minute inclusion of the four athletes. Since they came under Category B, they were put on a fly-in the first day and fly out the next day after the event. Out ticketing agent followed the flight advice given by the MAAU.”
Sir, you said the MAAU should have known in advance the time of the medal presentation. Did you as leader of our contingent?
I ask: One night in Jakarta too much to ask for four lads who provided that endearing, heroic moment in this SEA Games?
Or should I ask: Why a special flight for the Malaysian football squad back home after the final against Indonesia tonight?
The special flight should have been for Lasaleh, Kannathsan, Rosley and Yuvaaraj.