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|August 21, 2000||
Embattled Indonesia dreams of goldAchmad Sukarsono in Jakarta
Despite cash shortages and unrest in the home provinces of some athletes, Indonesia hope for a strong showing at the Sydney Olympics and more badminton gold.
Arie Sudewo, deputy chairman of the national sports committee KONI, and the country's Olympic training director, said the athletes were not allowing the country's political turmoil to affect their training.
"If we do not come (to Sydney), what will the world think of us? They may think we are such a hopeless country," former army general Sudewo told Reuters.
Sponsors were hard to find in the ruins of Indonesia's heavily indebted private sector, which has fallen on hard times since the country plunged into economic chaos three years ago.
"Training requires money, which is hard to get these days. So, our difficulties are not with politics... but with the economic situation. We cannot give athletes opportunities to train abroad, for instance," added Sudewo.
"We have painstakingly collected 6.9 billion rupiah ($775,300). You know, now even if we scream, sponsors will not come to help. They just do not have the ability to do it."
Sudewo said athletes from the bloodied Moluccas islands, where religious clashes have killed thousands since early 1999, and the rebellious province of Irian Jaya were among the 48 who had already qualified for the Sydney Games.
It is unclear how many athletes will eventually make it to Sydney, but as usual the country's formidable badminton stars are expected to have the best chance of getting Indonesia's red and white national flag thrust above the medal dias.
Up to 20 badminton players will take part.
Sudewo said Indonesia would send all qualified athletes to Sydney despite the fund-raising problems.
A government grant of 4.2 billion rupiah and Sydney's policy of not charging for transportation and accommodation were welcome, Sudewo said.
Multinationals McDonald's and Samsung are among the few private sponsors, he added.
Despite being home to more than 200 million people, Indonesia have only picked up three gold, four silver and three bronze medals in nearly five decades of unbroken participation since the 1952 Helsinki Games.
All but one silver medal came from badminton, the nation's most widely played sport.
Indeed, Indonesia's first gold medals were a fairy tale of sorts for a country not used to scaling world sporting heights.
Susi Susanti and Alan Budikusuma snatched gold in the men's and women's singles at the inaugural badminton competition in the 1992 Barcelona games -- and then married. They now have one child.
The third gold was in the men's doubles in the 1996 Atlanta Games.
"We want to continue our tradition of getting gold (in badminton)," said Sudewo.
"We saw our players do well in the Thomas Cup and the recent Thailand Open. Gold in Sydney, why not?" he added.
Last May, Indonesia's men won the Thomas Cup title for the twelfth time. The team's backbone and world's number two, Hendrawan (ed: one name), won the men's singles title in the Thailand Open last week after an all Indonesian final.
While most Indonesians doubt medals will come from other sports, Sudewo remained optimistic.
"We see medal opportunities in other sports like women's weightlifting. We have world champions in it," he said.
"These days we just have to be optimistic."
Mail Sports Editor
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