Asian Games debacle: Now we know where we are – NOC President

Is the NOC the scapegoat? For many, the medal-less campaign of the huge Sri Lankan contingent at the 18th Asian Games that ended last Sunday, 2 September in Jakarta, made the National Olympic Committee (NOC) the sole authority responsible for the failure.

In fact, Sri Lanka has only thrice failed to win a medal, until this year’s Games, at this biggest sporting event inaugurated in 1951.

The biggest contingent –

And to add to the woes, Sri Lanka’s was the biggest contingent, out of the nine nations, that returned home from Indonesia this time sans at least a single medal under their belt.

Is NOC the biggest culprit for the poor show by Sri Lanka, who has produced many top Asian medal winning athletes in the past?

“The Sunday Morning” asked the same question from the head of the NOC Suresh Subramaniam and its General Secretary Maxwell De Silva on Wednesday, 5 September.

“Initially the plan was to send only a few sports for the Asian Games this time. That was only for a few sports that were deemed having medal-winning prospects. But we as the NOC looked at it from the athletes’ point of view.

“Asian Games was, for almost all athletes, the biggest opportunity to represent the country at the international level. The mere representation was something that all of them strive for in their careers. Therefore we made available the opportunity to all of them to take part in the Asian Games, irrespective of the fact that they could win a medal or not,” said Subramaniam, explaining why Sri Lanka resolved to send a contingent of over 170 athletes for 28 sports eventually leaving her the biggest team, among eight other nations, to finish the Asiad without a single medal.

Bangladesh had the second-largest contingent (117), out of the nine countries that ended up last in the medals tally, led by China with a total of 289 medals, including 132 golds.

The positives –

“It was disappointing that many of the sports that we expected to win, failed to deliver in the end. Yet we came fourth in both 4x400m men’s relay and men’s rugby sevens. We came to Asian Games swimming finals for the first time,” explained Subramaniam elaborating on the positives of the campaign.

“We should also remember that some of the top medal-winning nations fielded athletes who were brought in from various other countries. Many medal winners in track events for Qatar were athletes who were born in the African continent and later adopted in Qatar and were eligible to represent it later on. The Japanese rugby team had Fijians playing in their ranks. But we had none such cases in our contingent.

“I took over this position (as President, NOC) only last February. I can say that after the Indonesian Games, we have come to understand our real situation. Now we need to move forward from here. ”

Maxwell De Silva quotes –

Meanwhile NOC General Secretary Maxwell De Silva said many local sports Federations pledged NOC, before the start of the Asian Games, that they had high hopes of medals, which turned out to be false hopes.

“NOC is a central body of various sport Associations. It’s those Associations that nurture the athletes and gauge whether they have any medal prospects. Many such Federations that had high hopes could not deliver in the end,” said De Silva.

“To miss medals in some of the track and field events was sad. But it should be noted that we sent athletes in many sports such as baseball, canoeing, roller sports and triathlon for the first time in Asian Games.”

Where from here? –

This year’s Summer Youth Olympics will be held in Buenos Ayres, Argentina from 6 to 18 October 2018, which will be the next stop for Sri Lanka’s young athletic prospects in the world stage. These Games will be held in 32 sports.

“When I went for the closing ceremony of the Asian Games last week, I signed an MoU with China. This will enable us to send our talented athletes to China soon, for top-class training. In the mean time, we have identified medal winning sports for the future. We have to harness their talents and bring them up to international level. As I’ve always said, my only intention is to bring an Olympic medal to Sri Lanka before I leave this position,” added Subramaniam.

  • The photo shows NOC President Suresh Subramaniam (right) with its Gen. Secretary Maxwell De Silva