Unnecessary fuss over choice of Olympic flag-bearer
Posted on July 15, 2012, Sunday
SARAWAK’S world-class diver Pandelela Rinong has been chosen to carry the Malaysian flag at the opening ceremony of the London Olympics which starts on July 27.
She will be the country’s first female flag-bearer at an Olympic Games after being given the nod over former world number one badminton player Datuk Lee Chong Wei.
The honour places Pandelela on the same pedestal as former women’s world number one tennis player Maria Sharapova who will also be Russia’s first female Olympic flag-bearer at the London Games.
The selection of the flag-bearer for the Malaysian contingent should have been a straightforward affair. The accepted practice is for the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM) to decide.
As such, the last-minute appeal by the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) to sway the OCM’s decision towards Chong Wei was quite unnecessary. With less than two weeks to the Games, strengthening es-prit de corps is paramount, not creating unneeded issues and distractions.
Apparently, the BAM wants to sing a fitting swansong for Chong Wei, London 2012 being his third and final appearance at the Olympic Games. Few would quarrel with that — at least from the player’s standpoint — but the way it was done seems pretty petty.
OCM president Tunku Tan Sri Imran Tuanku Ja’afar had expressed surprise at the BAM’s action.
“OCM chooses the flag-bearer — not the other way around. We offered Chong Wei the opportunity four years ago but he declined because he wanted focus fully on his event then.”
Tunku Imran felt the BAM should concentrate on getting Chong Wei ready, especially when the player has said he is now only 80 per cent fit.
“We have good reasons for selecting Pandelela. I wish we didn’t have to come to this where the matter has been blown into a big thing,” he said.
Chong Wei — known for his sporting disposition — appears the least concerned about not being picked as the flag-bearer, saying “it doesn’t matter whether I attend as a flag bearer or just a member of the contingent. I don’t want to miss the atmosphere of the world’s biggest sporting event in my last Olympic outing.”
He had missed out on the last two — Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008 — because of tight match schedules. But he is attending this time around because of a likely bye on the first day of competition on July 28.
Admittedly, badminton is likeliest to deliver medals for Malaysia. The shuttlers have everything to play for, including a 12.5kg gold bar worth RM2 million that comes with a gold medal, but they will have their work cut with the strong challenge from China, Indonesia, South Korea, Japan and even Denmark.
Although Chong Wei is still trying to find his best form, he can be expected to give Olympic glory his best (and last) shot. His injured ankle has been patched up and hopefully, the repair will hold up from the rigours of competition.
The other medal prospect is the doubles pair of Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong, the former world number one and among the most experienced doubles players at the Games. The duo are capable of beating the best on their day.
Punditry aside, our biggest hope is for Malaysia to do well in London. The task at hand must be to get the team ready physically and mentally rather than for an individual sports association to fuss over who should be the flag-bearer.
Sarawakians are especially proud that Pandelela has been chosen to carry the Malaysian flag. This young diving star who rose from humble beginnings to be among the elites of her sport thoroughly deserves the honour and the OCM’s decision to pick her is perspicacously commendable.
Nowadays, winning is important – in fact, the most important – for sports luminaries, given the prospects of monetary largesse that await success — plus the international prestige and the national pride for the country and the people the champion athletes represent.
But in sports competitions, there will always be winners and losers just as in the other battles of life. And as we wish the Malaysian contingent the very best in their endeavours to win honours for the country in London, we should perhaps be reminded of the Olympic Creed.
It proclaims: The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph, but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered, but to have fought well.
Ultimately, it is the challenge for which we all struggle as we strive to be Swifter, Higher, Stronger.