Malaysian athletes after the flag-raising ceremony at the Jakabaring Sports Complex in Palembang yesterday. - Picture by Yazit Razali
Much has been said over targets and the readiness of Indonesia to host the 26th Sea Games but when the competition begins in earnest in Palembang and Jakarta tomorrow, only performances will matter.
The opening ceremony at the Gelora Sriwijaya in Palembang today marks the official start of the Games yet there is a nagging feeling that all is not well with the organisation.
The early arrivals have had to put up with a wide range of inconveniences -- from traffic snarls to unfinished construction at venues and the general weariness that Indonesia is more interested in displaying its might than acting as gracious hosts -- but it should not detract from the pursuit of medals, which is what the Sea Games have come to entail.
Several sports have started ahead of the opening ceremony with football, where Malaysia have made an encouraging start when they defeated Thailand 2-1 after a 0-0 opening draw with Singapore, having kicked off on Nov 3.
Water polo followed suit in Palembang yesterday while canoeing and mountain bike take their bow today.
No expense has been spared in prepping the national contingent for the challenges ahead although the Sports Ministry and National Sports Council have taken flak over a conservative 40-45 gold medal target.
The national sport associations have predicted a combined 60 gold medals which ought to be the goal our athletes should be striving for.
Hopes remain high for the football team, gold medal winners in Vientiane two years ago, to go far again while our swimmers and divers expect to deliver a deluge of medals in the pool.
Archery, karate, bowling should also do the same.
Others have a point to prove with athletics, after a 24-year low of six gold medals in 2007, looking to rebound with the inclusion of seasoned athletes, including 35-year-old walker Yuan Yufang.
Some have taken the option to expose back-up players, an argument gathering strength in the country, such as badminton with the likes of Lee Chong Wei, Koo Kien Keat, Tan Boon Heong and others taking a backseat.
Tragedy also struck the national contingent with the death of NSC archery liaison officer Harun Osman on Monday while the late injury to gymnast Lee Wan Nin has cost Malaysia one near-certain gold medal.
Of 608 Malaysian athletes here, 253 are paying their own way and will be reimbursed if they win gold. Malaysia will compete in 38 of the 42 sports being held in the two cities with the exception of fin swimming, traditional boat race, vovinam and wrestling.