Sports and Unity

As the dust settles on the 29th South East Asian (SEA) Games, many Malaysians are still in awe of our impressive medal haul.  Our athletes gained a total of 145 gold medals and overall bagged 323 medals making this our most successful SEA games yet.

The opening ceremony was superb with the complete and balanced showcase of Malaysian history. The razzmatazz of colours and sounds left almost every watching completely stunned. The performances were well scripted. I kept wondering to myself: how did they pull this off?

The credit goes to the Malaysian Organising Committee (MASOC) for Kuala Lumpur 2017, the Youth and Sport Ministry and the Olympic Council of Malaysia. But one person stood the tallest and it was none other than Khairy Jamaluddin (KJ), the Minister of Youth and Sports and MASOC Chairman.

The games were seamless and I was informed by delegations from other SEA countries that it was one of the best they have ever been part of. Despite initial hiccups and setbacks, MASOC made the changes expeditiously and took corrective measures without hesitations.

Yes, we live in sensitive times and the flap over the erroneously placed flags of the SEA countries participating in the games threated to cast a pall over a very successful opening ceremony. However, KJ’s prompt action in meeting the Indonesian delegation and proffering an unreserved apology ameliorated the situation.

Like any sporting event, the SEA Games 2017 brought Malaysians together. The theme of the games was “Rising Together” and indeed we did rise together as a country despite the many differences that we share.

We made many strides in this games as well, breaking a total of 18 games records. The games have also proven that the national sports development strategy is bearing fruit as we had our best Olympics performance at Rio last year.

However, I also accept that in any gigantic exercise such as this, there are bound to be hiccups but unlike the Olympic Games in Rio last year, we did not have any embarrassing “green coloured” swimming pools neither did we have athletes mugged. As such, Malaysians should focus on the positives of the games and the benefit it has brought not only to sports in Malaysia but also how it has united a country.

Malaysians must also seize the moment and continue to build on the momentum of the games. We must remember the past two weeks nostalgically and given that it is also the 60th Anniversary of Merdeka, these games have been even more meaningful.

The past couple of years have been trying times with challenges on the economic, social and political fronts. The world is moving at a faster pace than it ever has and many of us are struggling to keep up with these changes.

As such, it is always important for us to reflect and take stock of how far we have come as a nation. How much we have achieved by working together and also the transformation we have experienced because of stable and certain governance.

The government’s effort through National Transformation 2050 (TN50) is the catalyst needed to push the agenda of nation building forward. This bottom to top approach will result in a vision that is composite with the required buy-in from all sections of society.

The power of sports to power unity must also be harnessed to its complete potential and is an unremitting reminder that we can achieve much more by working together as a country.

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