JAKARTA: The banners and buntings are up and the mascots – Modo and Modi – smile down on passersby here but the SEA Games fever has yet to take grip in Indonesia.
The 26th edition of the regional sports fest officially opens on Nov 11 and Indonesia is rushing to put the finishing touches before the opening ceremony in Palembang.
The bulk of the contingents, except for the football teams, have yet to arrive and the scene at the Soekarno-Hatta International Airport in Jakarta was as per normal. That is likely to change once athletes from the 11 nations start streaming in over the next few days for the Games being co-staged in Palembang and Jakarta.
The hosts have opted for a politically correct male and female pair of mascots this time. ‘Modo’ is a male komodo dragon in a blue traditional Indonesian costume and batik sarong while ’Modi’ is a female Komodo in red kebaya and batik sash.
Games officials with placards were on hand at the airport arrival hall to greet the delegations and facilitate their smooth clearance past Immigration before transporting them to their respective venues.
To add more colour and mood, a traditional welcome by pretty maidens in traditional costumes awaits the participants.
In Jakarta, the Games have unofficially begun. The men’s Under-23 football competition started on Thursday. Malaysia play their opening match against Singapore tomorrow.
All 11 teams are housed at The Sultan (formerly Jakarta Hilton), which is just around the corner from the Gelora Bung Karno Senayan Main Stadium.
The friendly smiles and warm welcome do not, however, mask the fierce nationalistic fervour and pride of the locals.
An Immigration officer who greeted members of the Malaysian and Singapore media yesterday was quick to point out that Indonesia would win the football gold.
“Have a good time and enjoy the tournament but Indonesia will win,” he said emphatically.