Which is it Khairy – politician or polo player?

Khairy-PoloYouth and Sports Minister Khairy Jamaluddin, should be made to choose between either his job as a minister, or that of a polo player.

Khairy may feel a thrill when he receives the adulation of the public and is photographed in exciting chukkas. Is he thinking about GE14 and how his prowess as a polo player will boost his popularity as a politician?

His responsibility as a minister is to promote sports and teamwork. He should not use the ministry to further his political ambitions.

Malaysia was given the stewardship of the 29th SEA Games this year, and the minister’s main role should be to ensure the smooth organisation of this important regional sporting event.

However various organisational cock-ups have heaped shame upon our nation since the start of the SEA Games. As we near Merdeka, people will not be talking about our gold tallies, but our failures and the humiliating treatment of our guests.

No one has been spared from the negligence and ineptitude of the organisers. The sporting public, fans, sportsmen and officials have all suffered.

This SEA Games has been beset by bad planning, poor organisation, and a lackadaisical lack of proper procedures, besides the shoddy disregard for the simple things – like the flags of other nations.

The Indonesian flag was printed upside-down in a souvenir booklet and the Indonesians were, understandably highly displeased. This is a matter of national pride.

One can imagine the reaction if the Malaysian flag had been presented in a shoddy fashion. Some of our more excitable nationalists would surely have started marching as if on cue, towards the Indonesian Embassy, demanding more than just an apology.

The flags of Thailand and Indonesia were swapped in a booklet that showed the medal tally of a previous SEA Games.

At the synchronised swimming event, organisers flew the Brunei armed forces flag, instead of the national flag.

The SEA Games website did not display much information about the times and venues of the events, but gave a good depiction of the medals tally. This oversight prevented many from attending the events, thus leading to a small spectator turnout.

Coaches carrying foreign teams were involved in crashes. Venues were not open early enough for team members to prepare for their events. With the lack of proper signage, teams got lost en-route to their venues.

Food was not available for some teams. An insufficient number of tickets was made available for foreign fans. And foreign teams, which checked-in to one hotel, were told that there were no reservations for them.

There were also allegations of bias shown by some officials who were judging the competitions. To make matters worse, there were reports of food poisoning at the hotels housing the athletes.

There were allegations that a bus driver, engaged to ferry some athletes, did not have a valid driver’s license and had also stolen a watch from an athlete. The communication between the various government departments must be bad. Despite the publicity from previous serious accidents involving bus and lorry drivers without valid driving licenses, we find that no lessons were learnt.

How else should one surmise the dismal handling of the SEA Games other than to say Khairy has failed? Maybe just stick to being a polo player? That way no further embarrassment and humiliation for Malaysia.

Mariam Mokhtar is an FMT columnist.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.