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Analysis: Indonesia can never be a great sporting nation – Academia

Tenggara Strategies (The Jakarta Post)

Jakarta ●
Mon, July 17, 2023

07/17/2023
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Indonesia always strives to be a great nation, as suggested by the title of the national anthem, Indonesia Raya. Now it’s well on the way to becoming one. Its global profile is growing, receiving accolades such as the third largest democracy in the world, the largest democracy in the Muslim world, and in economic terms, it climbs the current trajectory from 16th place in the rankingsth The largest economy will rise to the top 5 in the world in the next 20 years. Although Indonesia is becoming a middle power, it is unlikely to be a great sporting nation.

This year, Indonesia missed the chance to host two major international events that could have put the country on the world sporting map. The international football association FIFA has revoked Indonesia’s right to host the U20 World Cup in May/June. Last week, the National Olympic Committee (ANOC) association canceled the World Beach Games, which were due to take place in Bali in August.

FIFA was able to move the tournament to Argentina, but ANOC said time was running out to find an alternative and so canceled the games altogether, to the disappointment of more than 100 international athletes preparing for the event but also by millions of Indonesians who were looking forward to seeing firsthand their athletes compete with the best in the world. The disappointment about the cancellation of the U-20 tournament was all the greater, as football is one of the country’s most popular pastimes.

Indonesia’s world rankings in sports are already low. At the Tokyo Olympics last year, it was 59th in the medal table. It came 10th at the 2018 Asian Games, but the fact that it hosted those games helped. A clearer testament to its position in the region was the 2014 Games in South Korea, where it finished 17thth. In Southeast Asia, Indonesia struggled, finishing third behind Vietnam and Thailand at this year’s Southeast Asia Games (SEA) in Cambodia.

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Bidding to host international tournaments is always competitive. After Indonesia won both of those bids, it shot itself in the foot when it became embroiled in domestic disputes over Israeli involvement. FIFA decided to play it safe and relocate. ANOC said last week it had been informed by the Indonesian Olympic Committee that official funding for the Bali tournament had not been forthcoming, suggesting the initiative to cancel the event came from higher up in government.

The government had previously explained to domestic audiences that these events would be organized and hosted by international bodies and that Indonesia would only provide the premises. The presence of Israeli athletes should not be interpreted as recognition of the Jewish state, which Indonesia has consistently spoken out against.

A long-standing State Department regulation, renewed in 2019, provides guidelines for dealings between Indonesians and Israelis. These include prohibiting official contacts, not receiving official Israeli delegations, and prohibiting the hoisting of Israeli flags or the playing of Israel’s national anthems on Indonesian soil. Israelis with regular passports and not with official/diplomatic passports are still allowed to visit Indonesia but under very strict conditions.

What’s more

During the dispute over the U-20 tournament, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said it was ready to issue a visa to the visiting Israel football team and its supporters’ group. This was not unprecedented. Indonesia has hosted several international events attended by Israelis, including the Inter-Parliamentary Union in Bali last year.

But football and beach games are more popular and therefore more visible, so the presence of Israelis would draw a lot of attention. With Indonesia facing parliamentary elections in February, it’s also easy to become politicized, which was exactly the case with the two events.

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In March, it was Central Java Governor Ganjar Pranovo who spoke out strongly against the presence of an Israeli football team playing in Surakarta, a city in his province chosen to host the tournament. The governor of Bali, Wayan Koster, also spoke out against welcoming the Israeli team to his province. Ganjar is running for President and Koster is likely to stand for re-election. Both are members of the Indonesian Struggle Democratic Party (PDI-P), which includes President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo.

Koster has also spoken out against holding the World Beach Games in Bali, contrary to previous government assurances that the event will take place.

Since it is an election year, politicians running for office cannot risk appearing to support visits by Israelis, even if the government has found a way around the rule. This could easily be used against them in the election campaign.

Koster and Ganjar cited the spirit of Indonesia’s first President Sukarno, who banned Indonesia from playing Israel in the World Cup qualifying round in 1958 and received a penalty from the Olympic Committee for doing so. In 1962, Indonesia banned Israel and Taiwan from participating in the Asian Games, which Indonesia was hosting. This resulted in Indonesia’s membership of the Olympic International Committee being suspended for the first time in its history.

Neither man said Indonesia was at the time in the midst of a diplomatic campaign to win over Papua (then called Irian Jaya) from the Netherlands. The decision not to run against Israel was crucial in winning the Arab countries’ votes at the United Nations.

Despite President Jokowi’s repeated appeals not to mix sport with politics, that is exactly what is happening today with the U-20 World Cup and World Beach Games. Playing in front of a local crowd is far more important than Indonesia’s qualifications to host world sporting events and the development of its own sporting achievement on a global scale.

These two cancellations will seriously affect Indonesia’s ability to host international sporting events in the future. Indonesia has already submitted its bid to host the Olympic Games in 2036 and is considering bidding to host the World Cup in 2034 individually or jointly with neighboring Southeast Asian countries.

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So much for Indonesia Raya.

what we heard

Multiple sources said Indonesia’s withdrawal from hosting the World Beach Games was solely due to unsettled funding of the sporting event and not a question from Israel, which would not be taking part in the competition anyway.

Two government officials familiar with the event preparations said the Indonesian Olympic Committee (KOI) had proposed a budget of around Rs 1 trillion to organize the games, but the Finance and Development Regulatory Authority (BPKP) estimated only Rs 200 billion could be disbursed.

After an audit, the Ministry of Finance approved a budget of around 460 billion rupees for the World Beach Games.

The same sources said KOI then asked the Bali government to make up the deficit. “The governor of Bali rejected the request on the grounds that funding should be the responsibility of the central government,” a cabinet member said.

Disclaimer

This content is provided by Tenggara Strategics in partnership with The Jakarta Post to provide the latest comprehensive and authoritative analysis of Indonesia’s political and business landscape. Access the latest edition of Tenggara Backgrounder to read the articles below:

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