Indonesians ooze "energy of Asia"

An aerial view of the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium, the main venue of the Asian Games, in Jakarta. AFP

For an Asian Games city, there is a sense of calm amidst the chaos of life in Jakarta. 

Just two days from the continent’s biggest sporting fiesta, the Indonesian capital has faced all its challenges boldly. It is all about the finishing touches now and this city of teeming millions is putting all its heart to the task.

As athletes and officials from around Asia began to land in Jakarta, it was that heart that was apparent, right from the airport to the centre of the city, which will co-host the event with Palembang, the country’s seventh largest city, 600km away.

With efficiency and enthusiasm, the procedures at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport are completed in minutes. Young volunteers — mainly students — dressed in red T-shirts, khaki trousers and welcoming smiles line up to offer help at every point. But the surprising element is the security.

Reports had highlighted Indonesia’s fight with criminal elements and also its readiness to tackle threat of terror. But thankfully, security is far from intrusive, rough or rude. And at many points, it is far from visible. 

The main venue, the Gelora Bung Karno (GBK) Sports Complex, is under tight protection, but even here, there is no threat perception to be found, no suspicious glances are cast at you, only a smile and a welcoming folded hands. 

Banners and hoardings present a constant reminder of the upcoming event as one wades through the heavy traffic in a city of ten million people. Traffic, indeed, is a headache but special Asian Games lanes have been created to ease the congestion for athletes and officials. Action is already underway in football and handball but with the official opening set for Saturday, a day after Indonesia celebrates its independence day, the pace is expected to pick up. Attempting to whip up excitement is the torch relay that began in New Delhi and has traversed through different parts of this country over the past month.

Behind the scenes, it has been a race against time. Jakarta was named the host city only in mid-2014, after Vietnam pulled out citing the cost factor. In just four years, Indonesia have put in their best efforts to be ready for the mammoth task, renovating existing venues and setting up new ones. They are also relying on the experience of hosting the South East Asian Games four times to pull them through.

Of course, Jakarta also has the experience of hosting the Asian Games before but it was way back in 1962. The Games has grown in size and stature since then, with about 11000 athletes in 40 sports set to compete this time as against 17 nations and 1500 athletes 56 years ago. No stranger to challenges, Indonesia seem ready to make it a big celebration, thriving in the ‘Energy of Asia,’ as the Games motto says.

 

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