As work continued apace to get Indonesia ready to host the Southeast Asian Games, the host nation’s athletes received a rousing send-off on Friday.
The Indonesian Olympic Committee (KOI) and other officials gave a final pep talk to what could be the country’s largest contingent — 1,059 athletes set to compete in 545 events in 42 sports.
“Every time you face your enemy, remember that you are competing in your home country. Bring out your utmost, give your best. Make other athletes remember how to sing our national anthem, ‘Indonesia Raya,’ ” Minister of Youth and Sports Affairs Andi Mallarangeng told the athletes during his speech.
By the time Friday’s ceremony began, athletes in several sports — such as baseball, beach volleyball, shooting, softball, water skiing and wrestling — had already left for co-host Palembang to get an early start on adapting to the facilities.
Indonesia chef de mission Tono Suratman said 534 more athletes and officials would leave for Palembang today.
The body in charge of preparing the athletes, the Golden Indonesia Program (Prima), announced its target of at least 150 gold medals as the host tries to return to the top of the medals table.
Indonesia has not led the medal count since 1997, the last year it hosted the Games. That year, it claimed 194 gold medals, 101 silver and 115 bronze, but the best it has done since is third place.
The country’s athletes have climbed back up the table since Indonesia’s low point at the 2005 Games in Manila, sliding down to fifth place. They climbed to fourth at the 2007 Games in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand, before moving back into third at the 2007 event in Vientiane, Laos.
The government has pledged Rp 200 million ($22,000) for each gold medal, while awards for silver and bronze have yet to be determined. “It is good the government still pays attention to athletes’ hard work. In my opinion, the bonus is a motivation for athletes to work harder and give their best performance,” said Aswar, who will compete in karate.