Wednesday August 1, 2012
In true Olympian spirit
Along The Watchtower
By M. VEERA PANDIYAN
The Olympiad should be a reminder that scores of our ex-national sportsmen and women deserve better recognition and honour.
IT was designed to depict spirit of our warriors at the 2012 London Olympics but the tiger-striped costume ended up looking patently garish.
Several fitting English words come to mind but the apt Malay one to describe the gaudy effect is carca marba.
Too many colours and features resulted in a jumble that made it to the list of outfits made fun of at the opening ceremony.
But to be fair, our garb wasn’t too bad when compared with the likes of Spain, Russia and Ukraine and we were not in Time mazagine’s rather biased “Best, the Worst, and Just Plain Weird” list.
The jury was unanimous on Spain’s attire, which one sports website described as “a cross between nerd chic and ’70s race car driver moonlighting as a porn star”.
The costume was designed for free by Russian brand Bosco, which also made the unpopular gear of Russia and Ukraine.
Unperturbed by critics, Spain’s Olympic Committee president Alejandro Blanco said: “When you measure the difference between 1.5mil (RM5.8mil) of public money and free clothes, there is no discussion.”
It has been reported that the Malaysian Handicraft Development Corporation designed our tiger-themed costume but there was no mention of whether this was done with or without cost.
But why was a government body given the job? Shouldn’t all talented Malaysian designers be given a chance to create it through an open contest?
The same should have been the case for designs involving National Day logos and slogans, as done in the past.
The ditched hodge-podge Merdeka Day logo is a classic example of why politicians and officials should not be given cartes blanches to decide on occasions or events crucial to national unity.
When Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak took over as Prime Minister in 2009, among the noteworthy things that he said was: “The days of the Government knows best are over”.
It seems that some dinosaurs in the system still don’t get it.
But to come back to the Olympics, Malaysia has already made the headlines – for offering the richest rewards.
In addition to the RM1mil for a gold medal offered by the Government, a local furniture firm has pledged a matching RM1mil.
And if the medal comes from badminton, there would be another RM2mil, in the form of 12.5kg gold bar, from KL Racquet Club owner Datuk Seri Andrew Kam, who also owns a gold mine.
Olympian Ng Joo Pong hopes that the offer of millions can motivate our athletes into winning that elusive first gold medal but feels that the spirit of competing for national honours is more important.
Fondly known as “Uncle Joe”, the older and less famous brother of former national cyclist Datuk Ng Joo Ngan is among the scores of ex-national sportsmen and women who deserve better recognition and honour.
He currently holds two jobs – selling trucks and driving his own taxi.
Before meeting over coffee on Monday, the 66-year old, who represented the country in cycling in the Tokyo Olympics 1964 and Mexico in 1968, asked for a favour.
“Can you please thank Datuk Seri Nazri Aziz for my taxi permit? I have no chance to do it personally,” he said.
He said he wrote to Nazri (who was then Public Enterprises Minister) for a permit in 2002 and much to his surprise, it was approved quickly.
Recalling the tough old days, he said there was no proper training, decent racing bikes and not much money in the sport.
He used to train by racing behind a lorry from Petaling Jaya to Klang. As he was doing so one day in 1967, the truck’s engine burned out. He smashed into it, breaking his jaw and seriously injuring his back.
He was in hospital for three months but although doctors told him to take a year’s break to heal completely, he was back on the road, training for Mexico.
“They told me to take vitamins to regain my fitness but with no money, capati and fresh milk were good enough,” he said with a toothless smile.
Before leaving for Mexico, he won the seven-day road race trial – from Alor Star to Johor Baru – and repeated the feat all over again on the return route.
He has represented the country twice in the Olympics and has won numerous medals including the 1966 Asian Games long distance individual gold but the zeal for cycling remains as it was when he was 12.
He earned his first China-made bicycle by selling the most hamper raffle tickets as a La Salle Brickfields schoolboy and built his first racing bike using a discarded frame from a scrapyard.
At 16, he was already beating international riders on the 1km and 5km road races. A year later, he was picked for the Olympic cycling team.
And he hasn’t stopped pedalling despite breaking his left leg in a fall while jogging in 1998 and fracturing his thigh in 2005 in another fall in a wet market.
“The passion is still strong. It keeps me healthy,” were his parting words.
> Associate Editor M. Veera Pandiyan likes this famous quote by Muhammad Ali: “The will must be stronger than the skill”.