Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A troubled Games but still an eventful one

IT’S finally over. It has been a hectic 12 days of non-stop action since the 26th edition of the SEA Games officially began in Jakarta and Palembang on Nov 11.

The athletes have experienced joy and delight, sadness and disappointment, excitement and anticipation, disgust and dismay. They have gone through a myriad of experiences, a roller-coaster of emotions over the past few days.

Just as the athletes have had an eventful time, so too have we - the media people.
This, believe it or not, is my first-ever SEA Games assignment. And it has given me a better perspective of the toil, sacrifice and hardship my colleagues go through to get the best news and pictures every day.
They’ve had to run all over the place to cover several assignments each day. Rain or shine, they go out full of energy and enthusiasm.

By the time they have filed their stories for the day, they troop back to the hotel rooms dead tired.
But the next day, they are up and running again, ready for another new challenge. They are always in a race against time – rushing to meet deadlines.

Caught in Jakarta’s infamous “macet” – or traffic jam – they hammer away on their laptops in the back of taxis, or wherever they can, as I keep bugging them for the stories.
Hats off to my team.

If that’s not bad enough, some have had to deal with rude and uncooperative officials (like in Palembang), and even ruder and simply obnoxious fans (at most venues in both Jakarta and Palembang).
We have already written so much about them and their utter disrespect for others, especially anything Malay­sian, that I won’t waste any more space on the matter. The least said the better.

So, did the Games live up to expectations? Yes and no.
Despite being in the centre of the Games hub, I have to say that I, for one, didn’t feel the Games fever.
There are many reasons for that. The main one being that it was spread out too wide and too far – in Jakarta and Palembang.

There was no Games Village in Jakarta. The athletes were housed at various hotels in different venues. There was no centralised accommodation for the athletes and that robbed the Games of its feel and energy.
There were also far too many events, including some obscure sports.

The majority of the city folk were not really excited about the Games, either. They were more concerned with their daily existence, going through their mundane routines and trying to earn a living to put food on the table.
To them, the Games were a distraction, not an attraction.

The only time Jakarta came alive was during the football and badminton matches – and that too only when it was Indonesia versus Malaysia.

But even that was spoilt by their hostile fans who were not only unsporting but ungracious hosts.
The SEA Games began with noble intentions – to strengthen the brotherhood of nations in the region. But what we saw was more like the hoods of a nation. Shameful indeed.
All these, however, were forgotten the moment you saw Malaysian athletes stand proudly atop the winner’s rostrum.

After all, we are not just pressman. We are Malaysians, first and foremost. We take pride in our athletes’ achievements.
So, it was appropriate that our SEA Games sojourn in Jakarta and Palem­bang should end on a high - thanks to the football team’s gallant performance in the final against Indonesia on Monday.
It has been an eventful time for us here.

And despite falling victim to food poisoning - it knocked me out for two whole days - it was all well worth it as we managed to bring you all the heart-wrenching, heart-thumping, heartbreaking and feel-good stories of the Games.

Till we meet again, in Myanmar 2013.


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