Jusuf Kalla: The President Wants More Splendor

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  • TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Sports seem to be the thing preoccupying Vice President Muhammad Jusuf Kalla’s days as of late. Since he was appointed chairman of the steering committee of Indonesian Asian Games Organizing Committee (Inasgoc) to replace President Joko Widodo in March 2017, Kalla has been directly involved in the preparatory work for the series of tournaments scheduled to take place August 18-September 2, 2018, in Jakarta and Palembang. The steering committee was led by Jokowi when it was established in April 2015. 

    Kalla’s first initiative was to overhaul the committee’s organizational structure, which he felt was too bureaucratic. He then assigned several echelon officials in the Vice President’s Office to help manage Inasgoc’s budget. He appointed former deputy defense minister Sjafrie Sjamsoeddin as Inasgoc’s deputy chair to assist chair Erick Thohir and former defense secretary-general Eris Herryanto as the committee’s secretary-general. "We combined military and general managerial skills so that the work would be measured and timely," said Kalla. 

    Kalla also personally drove fund-raising for the games. Three months after his appointment, he gathered all SOEs to lobby support for funding. Last December, he pursued the private sector. "I also had to stir their nationalism," he said.

    Two weeks ago, Kalla received Tempo’s Setri Yasra, Sapto Yunus, Reza Maulana, Gabriel Wahyu Titiyoga, Egi Adyatama and Friski Riana at the Vice President’s Office in Central Jakarta. He explained that 75 to 80 percent of the tournament venues are ready, while several, such as the velodrome and the equestrian facility in Jakarta as well as the athletes’ village and rowing arena in Palembang still need work. An evaluation to review Indonesia’s preparedness for the Asian Games will be performed following the test event held on February 8-15, said Kalla.

    Many venues are not yet ready. What would happen if the deadline is not met?

    We’re optimistic that they will be completed on time. Several venues were still being prepared two days before the opening of the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The Jakarta provincial government is receiving assistance from consultants from the United Kingdoms for the velodrome’s construction. The problem is that we have to use wood from Siberia to ensure resistance to water and climate, both cool and hot.

    The soccer stadium is also still under renovation.

    Just some improvements to comply with the International Football Federation (FIFA) standards. The grass will be replaced.

    Several places do not meet standards. For example, the doors at the Gelora Bung Karno stadium are not tall enough to accommodate basketball players who are over two-meters tall. How did that happen? 

    That’s why we need test events to evaluate everything. Yesterday, I was given evaluations for the athletes’ village, made by athletes after they used the facility.

    What do the evaluations say?

    A variety of things. The distance between living quarters and the dining hall, how both should be placed. Potholes on the road leading to the athletes’ village. The evaluations are very detailed. We’ve given the list to the public works and housing ministry so they can make improvements.

    There are also complaints from basketball players about the short mattresses.

    Yes. Some, but not all of them, are two-meters tall.

    But there are only four months left to make improvements?

    Contractors are responsible up to four months after the facilities are completed. They will check everything after the test. Several doors at the Kemayoran Athletes’ Village had to be widened for athletes on wheelchair participating in the para games in Jakarta, October 6-13.

    The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) has requested that the travel time from athletes’ accommodations to competition facilities not take more than 30 minutes. Is this achievable? 

    It is, with adjustments to traffic - let’s say a special lane for the Asian Games, so only labeled vehicles would be allowed to use the lane. Toll roads will also be utilized. Everything’s been calculated. Yesterday, we calculated the travel time from the Soekarno-Hatta Airport to Kemayoran Athletes’ Village. It took only 37 minutes, or two minutes longer than expected because a truck had stalled.

    How often do you directly monitor the preparatory work?

    Not too often. I only review, receive reports and hold a monthly meeting with Inasgoc. I visit the Inasgoc office only when there is a problem.

    Does Inasgoc report to you every day?

    No. Sometimes I go visit Inasgoc, around once a week.

    Do you deliver a progress report to President Joko Widodo when you meet him

    Certainly. I told President that everything is going well according to schedule. I have met with all sports branches twice and already appointed a contingent commander so he can follow up on the day-to-day progress.

    How many times a week do you report to the President?

    There is no fixed schedule. Usually once a month.

    Does the President pay special attention?

    Yes. He inaugurated all the finished stadiums.

    Was the leadership change in the steering committee of Inasgoc, from the President to yourself, the President’s wish?

    Of course!

    What message did the President give you upon your appointment?

    Essentially, to do the job well and on time. Achievements must also be satisfactory.

    The new Inasgoc seemed to spring into action only in 2017, although it was formed in 2015. Why?

    Because it wasn’t clear who was responsible for what. There were directors, supervisors, organizers and executors. It was unclear when orders would be received, so we streamlined the structure to have only directors and executors.

    Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine