Friday, December 11, 2009

It's development SGF must give priority to

Arnaz M. Khairul

IT all trickled down to a fairly dry piece of "roti pisang'.

Condensed milk and chilly sauce are the only mixtures on offer as rather unusual dips for the "paratha" bread, or what we famously know as "roti canai".

Yes, roti canai is available here in Vientiane at a road side stall right outside the Nazim Restaurant, one of the more tasteful joints offering halal cuisine. The condensed milk here too is not as thick as what we are used to.

Vientiane is not something the regular Malaysian is used to, because it takes some getting used to. It imposes itself on us, forcing us to adhere to the basics. If you don't drink enough water, you will suffer from the acrid dry weather.

From being the most bombed country on earth to a moderate and rather well accepted form of communist rule. You can sense that the Laotians are pretty humble, but proud people. Well, you'd have to be that having taken that much bombing and survived.

And then they decided to host the 25th Sea Games and well, so far they're doing a fairly good job at it. Earlier complaints of poor Internet connections and facilities expected by some members of the Malaysian press were well countered by the Laotians with swiftly improved services.

Apart from the serious lack of public transport, this is a country of sufficient enough capabilities to organise sporting events, more so with the US$100 million (RM350 million) spent on the Games and facilities such as the new multi-facility National Sports Complex.

But yet one can't quite grasp why this Sea Games seems to be losing its soul. Or rather, the Sea Games Federation (SGF) has allowed the Olympic spirit in its flagship event to fluctuate depending on the hosts.

Only 26 sports are contested in the 25th Sea Games, but eight of them aren't Olympic sports and what is alarming is that this doesn't indicate the weakness of the Laos organisers, but of the SGF itself.

The SGF is made up of national olympic committee (NOC) representatives from 11 member countries, but just why they have failed to impose on the importance of development directed towards the Olympics is anyone's guess.

We might fail to understand how Laos was allowed to include three indigenous Indo-Chinese sports like fin swimming, shuttlecock juggling and muay thai, but weren't able to allocate a hall for gymnastics to be contested. They initially wanted to exclude cycling as well until Malaysia intervened and offered to help organise the event.

We could understand the cost factors surrounding the exclusion of hockey and it would have been impossible for land-locked Laos to even think of providing a sailing venue. But it is unimaginable that a country is unable to have a basketball competition.

All those sports that are here could well be out in the next Sea Games in Bandung, Indonesia, but who knows what the next hosts might decide on when the SGF itself seems not in a position to impose on hosts to maintain a sufficient number of popular Olympic sports in their Games.

Hence we're left with thoughts of how much more the Sea Games could do, not for itself and the countries that host it, but for the development of sports which matter to most of us -- Olympic sports.

As each dry and dusty Vientiane day passes, we sit and ponder how that dry roti pisang could do with some gravy. NST

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