Malaysia’s Michelle Chai joins A-list speakers at SIGA’s Sport Integrity Week 2022

Sport integrity is a subject close to Michelle Chai’s heart.

In fact, Chai, who serves as the Olympic Council of Malaysia’s (OCM) chief operating officer, has been involved with Sport Integrity Global Alliance (SIGA) during its early days, and sits in the international body’s Standing Committee on Race, Gender, Diversity, and Inclusion.

“I’ve known (SIGA Global chief executive officer) Emmanuel (Macedo de Medeiros) for a long time, in fact during my days with the Asian Football Confederation,” said Chai.

“So, when I was approached to be part of the committee, it was only natural for me to say ‘yes’.”

While SIGA serves a global mission, some said many of the issues raised by it are too European-centric.

“I think it boils down to the readiness of society to discuss such issues (i.e., integrity, transparency, gender equality, and women’s rights in sports, among others). In Malaysia, things are slowly getting there, as there are more conversations about women’s rights … the right to work, to exercise, and the right to exercise choices.

“It boils down to choices, being allowed to make the right choice, and not the choice made for you (by the authorities or any governing body). That’s the purpose of the committee I’m in.”

Malaysia, however, has hogged the spotlight for the wrong reasons in recent times, with integrity taking a bashing. Several top leaders, who once served in government, are facing corruption charges.

Politicians – even at state levels – tend to hold on to their positions, or act as patrons in sports associations in the country.

When asked if Malaysian officials will ever learn the true meaning of integrity in sports, Chai said: “There must always be hope. If we no longer believe in something, then we should just leave (drop the cause).”

“Sometimes, we tend to look at the bigger picture, but fail to make an impact on those around us. We need to focus on the person next to us. We can be that nagging voice, so to speak, to continue talking about integrity, and hopefully, there will be realisation, and people will listen.

“If every one of us does things correctly, the world will be a better place,” she added.

Chai joins the likes of World Rugby chief executive officer Alan Gilpin, SIGA chairman and former European Commission vice-president Franco Frattini, Portuguese Olympic Committee president Jose Manuel Constantino, International Centre for Sport Security founder Mohammed Hanzab, and International Equestrian Federation secretary-general Sabrina Ibanez, at Sport Integrity Week.

Sport Integrity Week, which will be held in a hybrid fashion at the Nova School of Business and Economics in Cascais, Portugal, is from Sept 12 to Sept 16.

Twentytwo13 is SIGA’s sole permanent media partner from Southeast Asia.