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Asian Indoor Games - is it a waste of taxpayer's money? : On November 9, 2005
It appears that only die-hard sports fans know the inaugural Asian Indoor Games, to be held in four provinces in Thailand, will officially begin on Saturday - although futsal (indoor soccer) kicks off tomorrow.
The Games were originally awarded to Macau but the Chinese territory was not ready so the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) asked Thailand to host the Games.
It has proved to be a wrong decision by the Kingdom.
The Games are scheduled in Bangkok (Indoor Stadium, Nimitbutr Gymnasium, Thai-Japanese Youth Centre and The Mall Bangkapi), Chon Buri, Phuket and Suphan Buri.
Some 30 countries will take part in the biennial event vying for 121 gold medals in athletics, cycling, hoop takraw, swimming (short course), dance sport, muay (Thai boxing), futsal, sport aerobics and extreme sports (BMX, inline skate, skate board and sport climbing).
The Games have been hit by problems, particularly public relations and financial issues which have irritated concerned parties including Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra.
The deadline for countries to confirm their participation, and the names of their athletes, was extended repeatedly.
It is believed that athletes who apply to compete just hours before the competition begins will be accepted.
Big guns like China and Japan were reportedly reluctant to join the Games but were begged to take part. Without their participation, the Games could be in an even worse situation.
The government initially set aside 680 million baht to stage the Games and involved parties believed the budget was enough because they were confident that sponsorship would pour in. They were completely wrong.
It is a shame that the organising committee (Baigoc) failed to get a single sponsor to cover the organising cost after they had used up the fund.
400 million baht was used to build an indoor stadium in Pattaya and the rest for other expenses.
With no way out, Baigoc had to ask for another 200 million baht from the government, which allocated the extra money from state enterprise profits.
As the public relations campaign has been so ineffective, Deputy Prime Minister Suwat Liptapanlop this week ordered Baigoc's PR committee to intensify its efforts to promote the Games.
It is feared that most of the stadiums will have a lot of empty seats so the organisers have tried to woo spectators.
The organisers at first planned to sell tickets for all sports but they later changed their mind and no admission fee will be charged, except for the opening and closing ceremonies.
Despite the move, it is expected that there will be more athletes and officials than spectators in certain sports. The organisers may have to mobilise students to attend the stadiums to give the Games a better image.
Fearing that Thailand would lose face before foreign VIPs, Suwat ordered that the Indoor Stadium must be fully packed during Saturday's opening ceremony.
Most of the sports at the Games are not popular in Thailand but Thai athletes could become rich.
A gold medal winner will receive a reward of one million baht from the government, a silver medalist 500,000 baht and a bronze winner 300,000 baht.
On the other hand, the gold, silver and bronze medallists at the SEA Games will each get from the government 100,000 baht, 50,000 baht and 30,000 baht respectively - or 10 times less than the Asian Indoor Games medalists.
The Thai squad are expected to win around 10-12 gold medals and lots of other medals at the Asian Indoor Games, so the government is likely to have to spend a fortune for the successful athletes.
The Asian Indoor Games seem to be a waste of money. Hopefully, Thailand can manage to get something back from the event.
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