Another initiative, but senior sports administrator wonders what happened to findings of Podium Programme

Malaysia’s hunt for that elusive Olympic gold medal continues, and stakeholders hope the drought will come to an end at the Paris edition in 2024.

The Southeast Asian nation, despite boasting modern infrastructure and facilities, remains out of the elite list of those from the region who have scored the gold.

Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines have made it to the top of the podium.

Badminton remains Malaysia’s best bet at creating history. As such, it was no surprise that a new programme – Paris Gold 2024 – is on the cards and will apparently feature the nation’s top shuttlers and cyclists in the pursuit of glory in France.

While details of the programme remain sketchy, more athletes from other sports are expected to be included in the programme.

However, long-time sports administrator Datuk Dr Ramlan Aziz wonders what had happened to the findings of the committee that dissected the previous sports programme by the Youth and Sports Ministry.

“Before they put one foot forward, they need to look at the steps taken earlier,” said Dr Ramlan.

“Even if they plan to put half a foot forward, they still need to look at the previous steps.”

Dr Ramlan was referring to the findings of the Podium Programme Enhancement Committee which he led.

Having once served as the director-general of the National Sports Council and chief executive officer of the National Sports Institute, Dr Ramlan and his team, comprising former athletes and representatives from sports bodies, documented their findings and forwarded suggestions to the then Youth and Sports Minister, Datuk Seri Reezal Merican Naina Merican, in September 2020.

Dr Ramlan (fifth from left) joined by his committee members presenting their report to Reezal Merican at Menara KBS in 2020.

Yet, the report by the committee was never made public – just like the accounts of the 2017 SEA Games held in Kuala Lumpur.

“It’s as though we have not learnt anything from it,” said Dr Ramlan.

“There’s no need to reinvent the wheel. Just look at the report and address the concerns. Why? It was a legitimate minister who commissioned the report. The committee comprised authoritative and accomplished representatives from the Olympic Council of Malaysia, and national sports associations.

“That report was presented to the then minister. He accepted it and understood its contents. He directed the ministry’s then secretary-general to sit down with me and chart the way forward.

“But that never happened,” he added.

Dr Ramlan said he was informed repeatedly that those whom he had to meet with were busy. Eventually, a new minister (Datuk Seri Ahmad Faizal Azumu) helmed the ministry, and a new secretary-general was named.

“What the right hand does, the left hand doesn’t know. I cannot blame the current secretary-general,” said Dr Ramlan.

“It’s a Pandora’s box that everyone is afraid to open. We have given them the key, but they don’t want to open it.

“My committee members and I have been standing by to help move this along since Day 1.”

Malaysia has seen a long list of sports programmes in the past, starting with the successful Jaya 98 programme, ahead of the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur. Other programmes included the Cemerlang 2010, Road to London 2012, Road to Rio 2016, and the Podium Programme.

Twentytwo13 had, in March 2021, published some of the findings by the committee. The committee said the Podium Programme was “a plan destined to fail” and “had a built-in deficit from the start”.

Dr Ramlan said that with only a year left before the Paris Olympics, he reckons that the national shuttlers have a good shot at the gold.

“Of course, we have a world champion (men’s doubles Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik), but the world championship is held annually. It’s not the Olympics.

“People need to understand the link between boardroom accomplishments and what happens on the ground. We have already suggested to the then minister a way forward that would include the two biggest stakeholders, the NSC and NSI. I’ve even volunteered to help.”

He added that it was not about power or territory, but doing what’s right for Malaysian sports.

“We find ourselves back on the threshold of yet another programme. Instead of taking steps to address the previous flaws, certain parties have conspired to forget about it,” he added.

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