Bali Prepares to Host Largest Event in Its History
SANUR ~ Sun, sea, sand and a healthy dose of rivalry are on the agenda in this tourist playground from Saturday as athletes from 45 countries descend for the inaugural Asian Beach Games.
It is a concept never tried on this scale before, with some 3,000 competitors pitting their wits in 17 sports.
Everyone from powerhouses China and Japan to minnows like Afghanistan, Laos and Macau are taking part, but how successful the Games will be remains unanswered.
Organizers are confident they will achieve their goal of positioning Bali at the forefront of sports tourism, although a reported US$10-million bailout by the government was necessary to keep the event afloat.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono is due at the opening ceremony on Saturday to give it his support, as is International Olympic Committee President Jacques Rogge.
Yudhoyono has demanded a security clampdown island-wide with memories still fresh of the October 2002 nightclub bombings in Bali that killed 202 people, most of them tourists.
“The president called for guaranteed security during the Asian Beach Games, as even the slightest disturbance would disrupt Indonesia’s image and reputation,” said People’s Welfare Coordinating Minister Aburizal Bakrie.
“Not only the safety of the participants and spectators, but the security of the entire Bali too.”
Police reinforcements from Jakarta have been drafted in to help their Bali counterparts secure venues at the beach resorts of Sanur, Kuta, Nusa Dua, and Serangan.
The Beach Games are the latest addition to a growing portfolio of multi-sports events regulated by the Olympic Council of Asia, with the Asian Games, next held in 2010 in Guangzhou, China, the pinnacle.
OCA President Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah sees spectacles like the one here from October 18-26 as a chance to nurture lesser-known sports, but also to foster friendship and understanding.
“Asia represents a rich tapestry of race, language, religion and nationality that has been woven over many centuries,” said the Sheikh, who will chair the OCA annual general assembly on the sidelines of the event.
“The OCA, through the Asian Beach Games, hopes to add colour to this tapestry and give great momentum for humanity across Asia to achieve friendship, peace and harmony.”
Bali might be the inaugural event, but it is here to stay with the hosts of the next three editions already decided – Oman in 2010, China’s Haiyang in 2012, and Boracay in the Philippines in 2014.
“As the governing body of sport in Asia, we are proud and committed to ensuring that the Asian Beach Games continues to grow and become an integral part of the lives of young Asians for generations to come,” the Sheikh added.
The event – the biggest sporting spectacle held in Indonesia for several decades – is a kaleidoscope of weird and wonderful sports, some familiar to the general audience but others less so.
They include: beach handball, kabbadi, pencak silat, sepaktakraw, soccer, volleyball, wrestling, body building, dragon boat racing, jet skis, marathon swimming, paragliding, sailing, surfing, triathlon, windsurfing, and woodball.