The Star Online, Wednesday November 16, 2011
Three cheers for the Hostile Games
THE STAR SAYS:
THE SEA Games are supposed to be all about regional solidarity and friendship, nurturing goodwill through sports.
But those worthy principles were for, and from, another era - an era when there was greater trust among nations and men, a greater sense of honour and integrity.
All that has changed; with progress has come distrust and deceit, hypocrisy and bigotry.
Sportsmanship and fair play have no chance when politicians, governments, sports bodies and officials speak not what they mean. Case in point: the 26th SEA Games in Indonesia.
The jingoism that has dominated the proceedings has made the event one of the most distasteful of the series, a nasty deviation from the ideals of the SEAP Games to foster closer ties and understanding among neighbours.
When Thailand hosted the first SEAP Games in December 1959, it truly was a Goodwill Games, one that saw athletes from Burma (now Myanmar), Cambodia, Laos, Malaya, Thailand and Vietnam engaging in honest competition without spite or acrimony.
The Games grew in size and stature with the addition of Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines, Brunei and later Timor Leste.
In 1977, the SEAP Games evolved into the SEA Games. The competition became more keen but remained largely true to the tenets of sports - of fair play and honesty.
But then, as these mostly newly-independent nations grew, so did their misguided sense of nationalism and pride.
These then became the overriding essence of the Games - one-upmanship, brinkmanship, bragging rights and humbling thy neighbour.
National pride began to overshadow and erode the sporting values of the Games. It is now all about who can win the most medals, never mind if it means cheating or shifting the goal post to steal an advantage.
These Games have bloated to 43 sports, most of them favouring Indonesia, offering a massive 542 gold medals. That's fine if the competition was fair and true. But what we have seen here, in Jakarta especially, is proof that the Games have grown out of control, driven by political, rather than sporting, agendas.
It's about winning at all costs so that politicians and officials can gloat and ride the popular wave of triumphalism.
It's about size and numbers, upstaging others rather than honest success.
We can understand patriotism but not insane ultranationalism and aggressive demonstration of parochialism.
How else can one explain the naked hatred Indonesian fans have for Malaysian athletes in particular? Their disregard for their foreign guests is disconcerting.
Malaysia and Indonesia have a long history of antagonism which has seen some major boil-overs, especially in Jakarta, in previous encounters like the Thomas Cup badminton finals and the Suzuki Cup football tournament.
The fans have jeered every single Malaysian athlete and the boos get louder if it's an Indonesian on the opposing end. That is to be expected, but there is a distinctly vicious edge to the jeers directed at the Malaysians.
Being patriotic is noble, but being disrespectful to other countries is simply appalling.
Little wonder that they are calling these the Hostile Games.
P.S. You (the writer) had seen it/heard it in just a spur of the moment... that is only during the SEA Games. Stay a little longer in Indonesia and you'll feel the real heat. I bear the heat for 9 long years now, and I had gotten heartburnt!