â€˜Big Achievement for Indonesiaâ€™: President Yudhoyono
By William J. Furney
The Bali Times
UBUD ~ The newly elected chairwoman of the National Sports Council (KONI) is confident preparations for the Olympic-sanctioned Asian Beach Games in Bali next year will be completed on time and that the first-of-its kind event will be a huge boost to the island as an expected 10,000 people flood in.
In an exclusive interview at the weekend with The Bali Times at her sprawling vacation estate in Ubud, Jakarta-based Rita Subowo said she was convinced there would be little difficulty in raising the circa US$30 million required to stage the games here.
President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and relevant government ministers had given their backing to the Asian Beach Games and saw it as a vote of confidence in Bali and a unique opportunity to promote the island during the Games, which run from October 18 to 26 next year and will be staged on beaches including Kuta, Jimbaran, Sanur and others.
â€œThey (the government) were so surprised about this big event because they didnâ€™t realize that it would be a very big Autumn Games in Bali until we made a presentation to them,â€ said Subowo.
â€œThey are really 100-percent [behind] how important this is to us, especially in terms of promoting our sports and also for Bali itself. So they are going to help with funding this event,â€ she said.
President Yudhoyono thought â€œthis is a big achievement for Indonesia,â€ Subowo said, adding that Yudhoyono had already given his commitment to opening the Games.
Athletes, officials and media from 45 countries are expected to attend, while disciplines range from handball to soccer, takraw, volleyball, bodybuilding, dragon boat racing, jetsking, marathon swimming, paragliding, windsurfing, surfing, triathlon and woodball.
Subowo said the decision by the Olympic Council of Asia, of which she is vice chairperson, to award the first Asian Beach Games to Bali signaled that the island was a safe and secure place â€“ and also a desired destination in the region.
But she said that with just over a year until the event is staged, â€œwe have to work hard to make it happen.â€ The nature of the competitions taking place on Baliâ€™s beaches means not much infrastructure is required to be built, however; most construction will be centered on viewing stands for the public â€“ semi-permanent structures that will be removed when the Games are over, the organizers, who maintain this will be the biggest event every to be held in Bali, say.
Subowo, who has been nominate for a vice chairwoman post at the Geneva-based International Olympic Committee and has a long history in sports involvement, notably volleyball, said the decision to award the first Asian Beach Games to Bali was made three years ago, and only last week formally announced. She said efforts were now underway to devise campaigns to promote the Games â€“ and Bali.
Bali was also a logical choice for the first Asian Beach Games because of its multitude of world-class accommodation, and a separate unit of the organizing committee would be in charge of coordinating security measures so that those arriving in Bali would feel safe, said Subowo.
She said an awareness program would be carried out for Indonesians around the country, to make them aware of the importance of the Games â€“ including for the development of the nationâ€™s youth and sportspeople – and that they should not be disturbed.
In all provinces, especially concerning the youth, the organizers had to â€œask them to understand the importance of these games and how we have to be together and how we have to be united for this event,â€ said Subowo.
The KONI chief said the was sure, meanwhile, that next yearâ€™s Olympic Games in Beijing would be â€œwonderfulâ€ and that after several trips to the Chinese capital to observe developments, she was positive that preparations were on target.
Could Indonesia ever host such a mega-event? â€œSome day, maybe!â€ replied Subowo, â€œThatâ€™s why we have to prove ourselvesâ€ with the Asian Beach Games.
Organizing personnel from the Asian Games in Doha last year were currently in Bali helping with the Asian Beach Games, and would be stationed here for a year and a half.
Strict anti-doping measures would be in place to catch athletes taking performance-enhancing substances.
Tickets for the Games would be available to the public and priced â€œcheaply,â€ at around Rp20,000 (US$2.25), said Subowo, adding that traffic congestion in and around the competition areas was projected to be heavy.
Countries outside the 45 taking part in the Games â€“ from the Middle East, South Asia and Southeast Asia – would be welcome to send their sportspeople to compete, said Subowo, citing neighboring Australia as a possible example.
â€œBecause of the Oceania region, we [would have to] welcome Australia because we are neighbors; we could train together and there would be a lot of benefits,â€ she said.
For the many thousands due to descend on Bali next October, special measures are being made to accommodate their arrival, such as adding additional immigration staff at the airport to deal with the influx, the organizers said.