TEMPO.CO, Jakarta - Indonesia has the daunting task of making the 18th Asian Games-to be held in Jakarta and Palembang this August-a success. Over the past four years, the government has coughed up around Rp25 trillion for the event, including preparing infrastructure and athletes. Youth and Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi, who is responsible for getting our athletes ready to compete, has been tasked with bringing Indonesia to top 10 out of the 45 competing countries.
Many feel the target to be overly ambitious. The last time Indonesia made it to top 10 in the Asian Games was in 1990, in Beijing. The red-white team secured 7th place with three gold, six silver and 21 bronze. In Incheon, South Korea, four years ago, however, Indonesia dropped to 17th place with four gold, five silver and 11 bronze. At the Kuala Lumpur Sea Games last year, Indonesia failed to meet its top-four target.
But Imam is optimistic that this time Indonesia will nail the target, taking into account its host's privilege, allowing the country to include certain non-Olympic sports. Athletes are also expected to perform with more gusto for their home spectators. "Not to mention big bonuses," said Imam, 44. He has promised a bonus of up to Rp1.5 billion for each gold medal.
Although some of the competition venues are still not ready, Imam is confident that the event will go smoothly, adding that the weakness, in fact, lies in promotion. "When we held a promotional event on a car-free day in Jakarta, many didn't know the difference between the Asian Games and the SEA Games," he said.
Last Wednesday, Imam paid a visit to Tempo's office in Palmerah, Jakarta. Accompanied by the ministry's Secretary Gatot Dewa Broto and three deputies, Imam gave his explanation on various topics, including sport branches likely to bring in medals, national football team issues, naturalization, and athlete branding. This report of the interview is written by Tempo's Reza Maulana and Angelina Anjar.
Why do you think Indonesia has a chance at making top 10?
First, our athletes' previous achievement in championships. Second, test events or single events of all the sport branches. Third, the athletes' track records in 2017. Fourth, the sport branches endorsed by the host. All the sport branches are optimistic that they can contribute medals.
Last year you said our target was to be in the top eight?
That's what the House of Representatives (DPR) wanted. I told them that I would only officially announce the target in June, when the names of all competing athletes are confirmed. Who knows, maybe the target can change to top eight (laughs).
Many feel that the top-10 target is unrealistic.
I guess the pessimism stems from disappointment in the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games results. SEA Games and Asian Games are different. At the SEA Games, the host is given more freedom in choosing what sport branches will be competing. For example, when we hosted the 2011 SEA Games, we chose many sport branches that many other countries didn't have. Plus, at the SEA Games, the number of participants isn't restricted.
What is being done to pursue the target?
We're really preparing sport branches with the potential to win medals, such as bridge, pencak silat, paragliding, rock climbing and jet skiing. Unfortunately, the sport branches we rely on are non-Olympic. But since we have the opportunity and the Asian Olympic Council (OCA) gave it's approval, so be it. Besides, our athletes are also optimistic, given our status as host. Not to mention the huge bonuses.
How big are the bonuses?
Bonuses for gold medal winners will be increased by 250 percent from the 2014 Asian Games, when gold medal winners earned around Rp400 million. But bonuses for silver and bronze medalists are still the same, Rp200 million and Rp60 million. The aim is to make all of them obsessed with winning gold medals. In addition, the public works and housing ministry has also pledged houses for gold and silver medal winners. They're still considering options for bronze winners. All medal winners, be it gold, silver or bronze, will become civil servants.
What sport branches have the potential to win gold?
I can only give the details in June, after each branch already has the names of competing athletes, so we can measure our strength against opponents. I have to be careful in revealing these details because our neighbors are watching us. So far, I haven't heard about, for example, the number of medals that Malaysia aims to win.
Last January, many sport branches complained that funds were slow in reaching them. What was the cause?
There were indeed some issues, but now all needs have been fulfilled, from accommodation, pocket money, equipment, tryouts to training camps.
Mulyana, Deputy of Performance Improvement: Various needs mentioned in the memorandum of understanding with the sport management boards needed to be verified. Then we needed an order from the State Treasury before issuing the fund. So we're not the one disbursing the funds. Now 96 percent of the budget has been distributed. The biggest amount, Rp18.5 billion for badminton, was disbursed on February 21. You can see that there are no more complaints.
Which sport branches have yet to receive the money?
Mulyana: Hockey, Sambo and Triathlon. It's being processed. The money for hockey was delayed due to the dual management system. According to technical guidelines, assistance to sport branches may be given provided there is no overlap (in management). Same goes to Sambo and Triathlon. The guidelines require a sports association to have a deed of establishment. These two branches do not have one yet. But they've continued to train although they haven't received the money.
Read the full interview in this week's edition of Tempo English Magazine