SI Vault
T. Peter Ross
December 02, 1963
Indonesia put on its Games of the New Emerging Forces, but what emerged in two weird weeks was a new kind of chaos
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December 02, 1963

Sukarno's Lavish Ganefo Was Mostly Snafu

Indonesia put on its Games of the New Emerging Forces, but what emerged in two weird weeks was a new kind of chaos

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At 5:20 p.m. Sukarno tucked his swagger stick under his arm and said, "The first Games of the New Emerging Forces are now open." He said it three times, first in Indonesian, then in English and French. Doves flew, balloons and banners floated, flags fluttered, cannon boomed, trumpets played, Mexicans danced, Chinese giants marched, Russian Cossacks stomped, Korean girls screamed and waved colored handkerchiefs and a banner was hoisted bearing the slogan of the occasion, "Onward! No Retreat." Thereupon 1,300 primary students rushed out on the field and went through gymnastic exercises that spelled out WELCOME, and recited: "We are dancing to enhance the sports festival of the new emerging forces. We have won. Undoubtedly we will win. We will get the star of victory."

Regardless of what the games lacked in athletic finesse, they did provide the wildest, most exuberant spectacle in Indonesia's recent history, and the Indonesians loved every minute of it. Surprisingly, their greatest applause during the opening day ceremonies was for a country they presumably dislike, The Netherlands. The Netherlands was represented by a contingent that was pathetically small. It was an almost painful reminder of the days when Indonesia had been the richest Dutch possession. The team got the greatest ovation of the day. In contrast, the smart, snappy Indonesian delegation of 500—the largest at the games—was greeted with much less interest.

It was immediately obvious, once the athletics themselves began, that Communist China would completely dominate all the new emerging forces. The most powerful of the old established forces have never walked over the Olympic Games in the commanding fashion of the Chinese in Jakarta. On the first day China picked up six gold medals, with five firsts in track and field and a world record in a weight-lifting event. On the second day the Chinese won six gold medals in eight track and field events, and so it went. The final result found China with 65 firsts, 46 seconds, 47 thirds. Russia had 31, 20 and 8, and Indonesia was third with 19, 24 and 30.

In the absence of any real contest, events of this sort can nevertheless possess intrinsic interest if the individual performances are outstanding. But few of the contenders in Jakarta were really accomplished athletes. China won the 400-meter run, for example, with a time of 49.5, which is hardly up to the standard of a U.S. high school track meet. The Arabian winner of the 1,500-meter race was timed at 4:00.8, more than 7 seconds slower than qualifying time for the Tokyo Olympics. And even good performances were apt to be tarnished by the general disorganization. At the 100-meter final the Cambodian and Chinese sprinters broke before the gun, a false start that was obvious to every person in the stadium except the starter. This left Mohammed Sarengat, the Indonesian sprinter who had won in the Asian Games with a time of 10.5, sitting in the blocks, while China's Lin Chingfen swept to victory in 10.7. The Indonesian track men were not left behind in a later race, however. When Joojte Oroh, their only triumphant track star—he won two gold medals—was leaving the stadium with his fianc�e, five members of the special police stopped them at the gate. After a hot exchange of words, Oroh swung on a special policeman and knocked him down. Then he knocked down another. As he himself was being felled by truncheon blows, the Indonesian track team, which was housed near the gale, rushed out and cleaned up on the remaining guards, who dashed in unmilitary fashion to the safety of a guard shack nearby. The winning time for their sprint was not recorded.

It was only natural that after 12 tempestuous days the games should end in a riot. As hundreds of spectators brawled on the field a soccer game between the United Arab Republic and North Korea had to be decided by a toss of a coin. The score was 1-1, but the U.A.R. was declared the gold medal winner.

What did Indonesia get from the games? They cost $6 million to put on, a stupendous amount in view of the country's economic situation. Schoolchildren solicited funds, hotel bills were hiked, all cars were stopped by the police and plastered with stickers that amounted to a tax of as much as $10 per car. Eventually, a large sum set aside for a French-built hydroelectric project had to be diverted to help finance the event. Communist China paid a part of the cost, importing the opponents from places like Mali in Africa, Albania and North Vietnam, and it also donated 50 tons of gymnastic equipment and 3,000 basketballs. But Indonesia bore the brunt of the expense.

The return, in terms of propaganda, is hard to assess. Any satisfaction Sukarno derived from having stood up to the International Olympic Committee on the matter of Indonesia's suspension must have been pretty hollow: the suspension was ended before the games were held, with the stipulation that the Indonesians refrain from chasing Indian delegates in the future. But there were some rewards. According to the official Chinese Communist news agency, when the Chinese athletes assembled at their quarters in International Village, they talked with the Cuban athletes "in an atmosphere of friendship and unity." That can be valuable. What did they discuss? The Cuban captain told the Chinese that only after liberation did volleyball gain popularity in Cuba. Before liberation, he said, American coaches came to Cuba to teach Cubans to play the game, but they did not come to raise the level of play, only to promote the sale of American volleyballs.

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