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'Dirty' games

Publication Date : 10-09-2012


It is perhaps unfair to compare the recent Olympic Games in London with the upcoming National Games in Indonesia's Riau capital of Pekanbaru, but mismanagement plaguing the country’s most prestigious sporting event has simply gone beyond the limits of tolerance.

When competitions began on Thursday at the 18th National Games, some venues were still unprepared to host the event and night shifts were needed to put the finishing touches to the athletes’ village. Worse yet, construction of the softball venue in Rumbai district in Pekanbaru will only be fully completed 10 days after the Games have actually concluded.

To exacerbate this topsy-turvy prelude to the Games, the glass canopy of the tennis stadium collapsed following a rainstorm on Thursday, injuring three people. The accident has cast doubts over the quality and even safety standards of all the venues where over 7,000 athletes from 33 provinces across the country will compete for medals.

What should be the pride of the Riau people has turned into an embarrassment now that the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) is investigating alleged fraud in the construction projects of the sports venues, fraud which has implicated local government officials and politicians. The shockwaves have reached Jakarta as some House of Representatives members have also been named in the case.

Most certainly the scandal will haunt the Games and the people involved in the construction of new facilities for the 10-day event, including Riau governor, Rusli Zainal, the chief host of the Games that will be officially opened on Tuesday by President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono.

The KPK first detected the odour of irregularities in the preparation of the Games after organisers of the tournament found difficulties in completing the construction of 54 venues on schedule. The antigraft body arrested seven Riau legislative council members and two provincial sports and youth affairs agency officials on April 3 and immediately named them suspects in connection with bribes allegedly paid to the local legislature in exchange for its approval of a last-minute increase in the budget to build the venue for the shooting competition from the original 42 billion rupiah (US$4.42 million) to 62 billion rupiah.

Two of the councillors were convicted and each sentenced to two and a half years on Friday and, as expected, opened a Pandora’s box of dodgy deals to embezzle public funds allocated for the Games.

Spokesman for the KPK Johan Budi said investigators were also angling at alleged markups in the construction of the main stadium, which cost Rp 1.1 trillion, without ruling out the possibility of probing into fraud in other construction projects related to the Games.

The KPK investigation into the Games scandal speaks volumes about the endemic vulnerability of government construction projects to graft despite clear regulations and the prison sentences facing the perpetrators. The probe further showcases the irony of the sporting values the nation is developing, which defy rather than promote honesty, integrity and fairness.

Before the Games scandal arose, the KPK had already launched an investigation into alleged corruption related to sports facilities in the South Sumatra capital of Palembang and the West Java district of Hambalang in Bogor, which has also implicated House politicians.

In the case of the infamous National Games saga, poor planning, on top of intention and opportunity, has led organisers to fraud. The last-minute budget revisions would not have occurred in the first place if the organisers had wasted no time as soon as they received their mandate six years ago. By comparison, the London Olympics organising committee completed their preparations for the summer Games a year in advance.

There is at least a blessing in disguise from the National Games scandal. Future hosts of the Games have at least been reminded not to leave any room for dirty tricks.

US$1 = 9,580 rupiah


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