Asian Olympic Chief Predicts Rosy Future for Beach Games, Bali

asian-beach-games.gifBy William J. Furney
Managing Editor
The Bali Times

JIMBARAN ~ The first-ever Asian Beach Games, an Olympic-sanctioned event to be held in Bali next October, will be a resounding success that will result in higher, roll-on fortunes for Bali, the head of the Kuwait-based Olympic Council of Asia said this week.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with The Bali Times during a council forum in Bali this week, Husain Al Musallam said last year’s Asian Games in Doha were a reflection of what can be achieved in a small place with relatively limited sporting infrastructure.

However, he pointed out that due to the nature of the Asian Beach Games, not much infrastructure was required in Bali, apart from spectator stands, media centers and other facilities.

“The Asian Beach Games have a very bright future … All the world will come here to experience this new sporting event,” said Al Musallam.

For the Bali event, “I want to see a very high level of competition. I want to see a good standard of operation during the Games, as a setup for the future Games,” he said.

Al Musallam said he was confident that Bali could properly stage the massive event, touted as the largest in the island’s history.

Bali “has experience, and Indonesia has experience, since 1962. They organized the 4th Asian Games, in Jakarta, which is a bigger event, and they have so many international events,” he said.

“But now I think the sporting society in Indonesia is getting together, and bringing Indonesia back to the international arena.”

Events such as the Asian Beach Games would encourage Indonesia’s youth to become more actively involved in sports and help to create a healthier society, said Al Musallam.

There were some concerns about security in Bali, following events during recent years here, but council members insisted Bali was a safe and secure place to host the first Asian Beach Games.

“A lot of people said like that (about security), but we have to trust the Olympic Council of Asia, our members. We want to change the image (of Bali), and try to work and change the attitude of the people – locals, non-local – that this place is a safe place, is good for tourism, good for sports’ environment. For that reason we decided to give (the first Asian Beach Games) to Bali – we want to make it as famous as before,” he said.

Bali’s economy would get a major boost from the Games, he predicted.

“It will have a very positive impact after the Games. I’ll give you an example: Doha, before the Asian Games, it was a small place and everyone was scared – ‘Oh, it’s a small country (Qatar) in the Middle East. It’s a small country surrounded by a lot of problems: political, war, aircraft carriers, not enough population, not enough sewage system, not enough water system.’ And then they organized the best Asian Games ever. I think the Bali Games – you can already feel the effect of them.”

Al Musallam said 45 countries had confirmed their participation in the Games, which feature disciplines including some that are relative newcomers, like woodball, invented in 1990 by a Taiwanese man and said to be a cross between golf and lawn bowls. In Bali, it will be played on a mixed surface of grass and dampened sand, the Bali Asian Beach Games Organizing Committee said.

Other sports include sailing, a triathlon, surfing, paragliding, marathon swimming, jet-skiing, bodybuilding, dragon boating, soccer, volleyball and handball, as well as sepak takraw, a kind of football-meets-volleyball sport that originated in Thailand.

Venues include the beaches of Sanur, Nusa Dua, Jimbaran and Kuta, and some 10,000 people are expected during the October 15-28 event, from athletes to media, officials and spectators, according to the organizers.

The Asian Beach Games is to be held every two years, and thus far have also been awarded to Oman, in 2010; China, in 2012; and the Philippines, in 2014.

Rita Subowo, vice president of the 1st Asian Beach Games, Bali, told The Times during the forum at the Intercontinental Resort here that during a recent meeting with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in Jakarta, he had given her his “full backing” for the sporting event and pledged to provide adequate funding.

Around Rp300 billion (US$33.5 million) is required to stage the Games, with a large chunk expected to come from corporate sponsorship, said Subowo, also president of the National Sports Council.

Subowo, who has a long history of promoting volleyball in Indonesia and abroad and helped organized the first Asian beach volleyball tournament in Bali 17 years ago, has been nominated for membership of the International Olympic Committee, whose members will vote during a meeting in Guatemala City in July.

Earlier, she said: “It is hoped that through the Bali Asian Beach Games 2008, Bali can prove itself as being a wonderful destination not only for tourism but also for sports. Indonesia wants to inspire the entire world and show them that no matter what faces us in troubled times, we, as a nation have the strength to move on and build a new and better tomorrow.”


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