Sunday, December 12, 2010

‘It’s all Chinese to me’, but the rest is great

Matheos Viktor Messakh, The Jakarta Post | Tue, 11/16/2010 9:53 AM | Sports
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Ask for directions or help from the Guangzhou 2010 Asian Games volunteers and you will never get a direct answer. Most of the time you will receive the reply: “wait a minute”, and the person you addressed will go off to find someone from their team that can speak better English.

Although the language barrier is a small problem — it sometimes is frustrating, especially if you in a hurry. After all, there are 600,000 volunteers at the Guangzhou 2010 Asian Games and Asian Para Games scattered on every corner of the city and in the neighboring towns to provide help for foreign delegates, journalists and spectators.

“For the first two days I found it very difficult but it got better after that,” said 20-year-old Liu Weihuan, who is a member of a press work room at the Nansha Gymnasium, the stage for the wushu competition.

A boat that attracts people from all walks of life

Matheos Viktor Messakh, The Jakarta Post, Guangzhou, China | Sun, 11/21/2010 2:40 PM | Sports
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While many professional athletes struggle to find their way into the limelight at international multi-event sporting competitions, such as the current Guangzhou Asian Games, teams of fantastic amateur boat racers are now unable to avoid publicity.

Civil servants, police officers, soldiers, nurses, firemen, fishermen, housewives, teachers and students all joined the colorful Asian Games dragon boat race competition, which made its Asiad debut on Tuesday.

Indonesian policeman Silo said he has had no difficulties joining the national team because his superiors were supportive and granted him training leave.

“If there is no training camp, I am a police officer as usual, and there is no special treatment for me,” said the 25-year-old first brigadier officer who works as a training instructor in Central Kalimantan.

“But I’m very grateful because my superiors support me, and they will have no objection if there is a call for me from the National Sports Council [KONI].”

For Silo, dragon boat racing has the same principles as police work. “Its like a police brigade, one for all and all for one,” Silo said.

The Indonesian men’s team consists of policemen, a marine, several civil servants and university students. Sixteen of the 22-strong squad are new members, while the rest are members of the previous team that competed in several Southeast Asian (SEA) Games and the Bali Asian Beach Games.

Silo’s teammate, civil servant Didin Rusdiana, said he discovered dragon boat racing by accident when university students from Jakarta came to train in his home town near Bandung a few years back. He was hoping that his dragon boat racing efforts would help the new Asian Games sport gain global exposure as it chases a berth in the Olympics.

Japan’s men’s dragon boat team consists of staff from Uohashi Hospital in Aioi, and despite borrowing boats to train and only hitting the water once or twice a month, there is nothing amateur about this crew’s mindset when it comes to competition.

“Our team is all nurses, and in most people’s eyes seems to be weaker than athletes from other teams,” captain Takamasa Matsuno told the Asiad News service.

The Japanese nurses finished first in the 500-meter minor final for a ranking of seventh, and second in the 1,000-meter minor final to take eighth in the event.

The squad is a member of a 10-year-old dragon boat club that won a third straight national open championship in July to qualify for Guangzhou.

Takamasa said they told their patients that they were planning on competing in the Asiad. “They were very supportive and cheered for me. My boss also supported me, so I was able to train indoors in the morning and evenings.”

The Macao team has another dragon boat story. The team is made up of firemen.

“Even many of full-time athletes didn’t get the chance to come here, but we made it. I really feel very lucky,” 31-year-old Macao fireman Chang Wa Ieng told the Asiad Daily, the China Daily supplement for Asian Games.

Chou Pi-Chieh, a 29-year-old high school teacher from Chinese Taipei, whose team competed for the first time, said most of his teammates were students, most in college and some still in high school.

“We broke a paddle during the heat and didn’t have a reserve in the boat, and a lot of our rowers are young and lack experience at such a high-profile event. We can do a lot better,” Pi-Chieh said.

Dragon boat racing, which has its ancient roots in southern China, was added to the Asian program along with kabbadi, sepaktakraw, wushu and the traditional Asian board game of go (weiqi).

Dragon boat racing was revived as a competitive sport in 1976 in Hong Kong. It has been contested worldwide since the International Dragon Boat Federation was formed in 1991.

For the 2014 Incheon program, the Incheon organizers have proposed baseball, bowling, kabaddi, sepaktakraw, softball and squash.

The Olympic Council of Asia would like to see cricket included due to high spectator interest and TV ratings, and karate because of its Asian roots and global popularity. The decision will be made during the next executive board meeting in Muscat, Oman.

Securing the Guangzhou showcase

Matheos Viktor Messakh, The Jakarta Post, Guangzhou, China | Sun, 11/21/2010 2:41 PM | Sports

An Indonesian journalist unintentionally left his ID card at the main press room and went to the toilet outside.

He was stopped by a security guard when he was about to exit the toilet, and was escorted to the news room to retrieve his ID card.

That was only one little story about how tight the security arrangement has been during the 16th Guangzhou Asian Games.

The local police chief revealed Thursday that the Asian Games security arrangement comprised a four level security line: community security, neighboring area security, torch relay security and venue security.

The police estimated that over 800,000 people have taken part in community security.

“We believe a peaceful and harmonious society is essential to the safety of all sports teams, technical officials, team officials and spectators,” He Guangping, deputy director general of the Guangdong provincial public security department, said at a press conference Thursday.

Since last April the police had launched a campaign for game security called “Social Security for a Safe Asian Games” in which they applied advanced information technology in inter-district and multi-force crack downs against crime.

Three security circles had been mapped out with the sports venues at the center, a circle around Guangdong province, and a circle around host city Guangzhou and co-host cities Foshan, Dongguan and Shanwei.

Since Oct. 10, the police also tightened supervision of road traffic, water traffic, air traffic and rail links by setting up 56 check points along the provincial circle, 76 check points along the city circle, 26 points along waterways and 24 points along rail links. A total of over 3,600 policemen and 7,400 security staff are deployed at these check points.

As of last Tuesday, highway checkpoints had pulled over 2,734,000 vehicles, interviewed more than five million passengers and nabbed “1,740 criminal suspects and 207 wanted criminals.” Police also confiscated 1,979,000 fireworks and 65,000 kilograms of dangerous chemicals.

Security teams have also been deployed at each venue and every residential area.

Physical isolation and technical protection facilities have been installed at all venue and competition areas. “We have a well-equipped nuclear biochemical detection team, professional teams responsible for technical protection, venue security checks, human and vehicle checks, water security checks, an explosives removal team and a special group with explosive detective dogs,” said Guangping.

In the wake of a high-rise inferno that killed 53 people in Shanghai last week, more than 600 fire inspectors have been deployed at the venues, the Asian Games Village and hotels to identify loopholes and remove any possible fire threats to security.

Guangping claimed that the security plan was based on practices adopted by the Beijing Olympics and the 60 anniversary celebrations of the founding of the People Republic of China, both of which were in line with the relevant rules of the Asian Games and the Olympics.

“We believe we can deliver not only a safe Asian Games, but a friendly one. The safety of events
in all venues will remain our priority, and we will deploy the police force to the most needed areas to work jointly with the communities,” he said.

For the Nov. 12 opening ceremony alone up to 100,000 security personnel were on full alert in Guangzhou, Foshan, Dongguan and Shanwei. “Among them, 40,000 personnel were deployed around the Haixinsha Island, the site of the opening. Despite the unprecedented challenges, there have so far been no major security incidents at these games, thanks to arduous preparation,” He Guangping said.

Guangzhou praised for perfect preparation

Matheos Viktor Messakh, The Jakarta Post | Mon, 11/15/2010 11:45 AM | Sports

While Indonesia has been busy debating how much money should be spent and where the various sporting events should be held for the South-east Asian (SEA) Games, the Chinese province of Guangzhou began preparing for the 16th Asian Games six years in advance.

Guangzhou, the richest province in China, has spent 13.6 billion Yuan (US$2.04 billion) on the Asian Games and the Asian Para Games, slightly lower than the 2006 Asian Games, which cost host Doha $2.8 billion.

The money was used to build 12 new stadiums, to upgrade 58 existing venues and to build support facilities for the event.

Instead of building stadiums only in a few regions, the arenas have been arranged around the downtown and suburban areas of the city.

“At first we thought of building the stadiums in a concentrated area. But we changed our mind because we want to let people in different parts of the city enjoy the legacy of the Asian Games, for years to come,” 16th Asian Games (GAGOC) organizing committee secretary-general Zhang Guangning told China Daily.

An Asian Games Town is built in an area of 2.73 square kilometers, which comprise eight functional areas including Athlete Village, Media Village and Main Media Center, all of which were completed by Aug. 2010.

As the games host the biggest number of sports in the history of the Asian Games, including 28 Olympic sports and 14 non-Olympic sports, the organizers have organized 150 medical teams, 3,700 vehicles and a team of 60,000 volunteers.

A total of 4,280 technical officials were also appointed, of which 1,911 are international officials. Among the internationals, 506 are Chinese nationals.

As last minute preparations have tarnished the image of many countries in the past, including the recent India Commonwealth Games, the Guangzhou administration has been meticulous throughout the entire preparation process. Since Guangzhou won the bid to host the 2010 games in July 2004, the administration has been dedicated to improving water and air quality, dwelling conditions and transportation in the city.

At the beginning of this month the administration began providing free subway commutes and bus rides for the public, including on a new line from the Baiyun Airport to the downtown area.

However, when it became clear these transportation modes had become too crowded as a result of the policy — passenger volume hit 17.45 million per day — the free policy was revoked and replaced with a 150-yuan subsidy for each family in Guangzhou.

The Guangzhou Games are somewhat focused on the sustainable development and post-games use of facilities, a topic that became a hot issues for the Beijing Olympic Games, deputy GAGOC secretary-general Xu Ruisheng said.

“After six years of preparation, everything is ready for these games in Guangzhou,” Xu Ruisheng said Wednesday, ahead of the spectacular opening ceremony on Friday evening, adding that the 16th Asian Games had progressed through many stages.

Indeed, the Friday night opening ceremony was evidence that the organizing committee had done very well in their preparations, which a 14-month-long rehearsal schedule for the opening act.

At the 380 million Yuan ceremony at Haixinsha (meaning “sand in the heart of the river”), a boat-shaped shoal in the Pearl River sat surrounded by residential buildings and skyscrapers, including the 610-meter high Canton Tower.

With the concept of “taking the Pearl River as the stage and taking the city as the background”, the site for the opening ceremony was open, unlike others that have been held in enclosed stadiums.

Unlike a traditional parade, delegations from every country made their entrance via boat. A total of 45 pleasure boats, featuring landmarks from the event’s 45 participating countries, embarked on a 9.3 kilometer cruise on the Pearl River to the main venue, Haixinsha.

Fireworks exploded from the base of the city’s new iconic landmark, Guangzhou Tower, making the tower look like a blossoming Kapok tree, which is regarded as Guangzhou’s official floral emblem. The fireworks were set off at 960 sites throughout Guangzhou, including Haixinsha. Thousands of fireworks exploded around the Guangzhou Tower, and more than 40,000 projectiles were fired while 580 officials monitored the display.

Chief fireworks designer Christophe Bertoneau also played a major part in the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2004 Athens Olympic Games.

The organizing committee said the fireworks were “low-carbon” and environmentally friendly. “We have applied to the Guinness World Book of Records for fireworks,” said fireworks headquarter chief Zhao Weiping.

The same wushu athletes who dazzled onlookers at the opening of the 2008 Beijing Olympic stole the show again on Friday night, flying almost 80 meters above ground on steel wires.

The 160 “flying teens”, who were divided into eight groups, used their bodies to form various shapes, including mountains, fish, seagulls and flowers against a changing backdrop provided by huge LED screens for what amounted to a breathtaking 10-minute performance.

In contrast, a smaller group of 60 performed in Beijing by circling a globe representing the earth to the accompaniment of a 1,000-person drum assembly.

“It was unique, and the organizing committee was perfect. I tried to find something wrong with the ceremony but I could not. I am happy and appreciate what they have done for us,” said Iran team official Hassan Teimourtash.

IOC President Jacques Rogge praised the city. “Guangzhou definitely has the skill to [host the Olympics],” he told reporters Saturday. “Guangzhou has the expertise and experience from these games.”