Lavish launches for govt programmes, but no allocation for athletes ahead of 2022 competitions

Those who attended the rebranding of HRD Corp two weeks ago, and the launch of ‘Aspirasi Keluarga Malaysia’ last week, probably had one thing in mind – how much of taxpayers’ money was spent on the events.

From the setting up of the halls, which were done rather lavishly, to the launch gimmick, there were those who were curious to know what the cost was. Some argued that the government got the halls at a “discounted price”.

While many enjoyed the festivities, national athletes and officials representing sports bodies in Malaysia could only watch and read about these events in dismay.

In about two weeks, the world will usher in the new year. 2022 is a busy sporting year, with three major multi-sports events – the SEA Games in Hanoi (May 12-23), Commonwealth Games in Birmingham (July 28-Aug 2) and Asian Games in Hangzhou (Sept 10-25).

Yet, until today, no one in the fraternity has been told of any plans, programmes or funding that would be set aside for these Games.

National sports associations in Malaysia, generally, rely on government funding to prepare their athletes ahead of major competitions. Many are not self-sufficient and would only initiate programmes once they obtained some money, mostly through the National Sports Council – the funding arm of the Youth and Sports Ministry.

The allocation for sports, or lack thereof, was even raised by Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) president, Tan Sri Norza Zakaria, after the executive council meeting on Saturday.

Norza said the 50-odd OCM affiliates and associate members had expressed concern over the matter.

Two things he said stood out that day.

“While other countries, our competitors, are focused on their athletes’ preparations, our own athletes and the national sports associations are in the dark as to the status of their own preparations, as there is no allocation for the Podium Programme,” said Norza.

“Some of them also said their requests for allocations have not been attended to. There is a lot of uncertainty, and subsequently, worry for our national sports associations, with regard to 2022,” he added.

To date, there have been no updates regarding the Podium Programme. In fact, the findings and recommendations made by the Podium Programme Enhancement Committee, which was submitted to the ministry in September last year, have yet to be made public.

There have also been no updates regarding the National Sports Vision 2030 initiative, which was supposed to have been launched in October. While we’re at it, the accounts of the 2017 Kuala Lumpur SEA Games, which are believed to have been closed, have also not been revealed to the public.

The uncertainty, as highlighted by Norza, is mind-boggling. The Covid-19 pandemic cannot be used as an excuse, as ‘virtual’ meetings can be held.

If stakeholders outside the Youth and Sports Ministry have not been forthcoming with the government’s financial plans, then they should be taken to task and be asked to justify themselves.

Money spent on battling Covid-19, whether to purchase vaccines or provide financial aid to those affected, are justified. But eyebrows will be raised, and questions asked, if money can be spent on lavish government-related events, but not sports.

As such, the government should stop claiming that it has sports and the sports industry at heart.

It seems to have taken a “tidak apa”, “I don’t really care”, and “whatever lah” attitude over sports and our athletes.