JAKARTA – A city wept rain, a flame was extinguished and the Asian Games ended with colour and song. The Gelora Bung Karno stadium was filled one last time for the farewell and then like the others it emptied of life. But memories will survive, friendships will endure and record books will remain.
It was wet at the arena on Sunday (Sept 2) but nothing could rain on this parade. Athletes walked out wearing translucent ponchos and for a while they looked as if they belonged to one vast tribe. They had smiles on their faces and cameras out for the hard work was over, at least for now.
Indonesia’s vice-president Jusuf Kalla thanked the athletes and said: “This party is for each and every one of you for your persistence and determination.”
It was time for the entertainers to be entertained. And so fireworks coloured the sky and a string of musicians – from Indonesia to Korea to India – belted out songs.
Indonesian President Joko Widodo was in Lombok which was recently struck by earthquakes and appeared on the big screen. He has spoken about hosting the 2032 Olympics and as a dress rehearsal, this Games was a pleasant one.
Like athletes, the Games took a while to warm up but some things were unforgettable. The sound at badminton’s Istora, the smiles of volunteers, the kindness of locals and the grace of the swimmer Rikako Ikee.
The Japanese ended with six golds and became the first female MVP ever. The Games’ deliciously catchy anthem translated as ‘Reach For The Stars’ and she seemed to touch them. If she was a nation she’d be ranked 16th of 37 nations in the medal table. Above Singapore, too.
The Republic finished 18th with four golds, four silvers and 14 bronzes, just slightly less than the 5-6-14 tally from Incheon four years ago.
Sport is not supposed to discriminate and fittingly age didn’t matter, only talent. Bunga Nyimas, 12, won a women’s skateboarding bronze and Bambang Hartono, 78, a bronze in bridge. There was room for everyone, those competing alone and those strengthened by unity. The two Koreas joined to win silver in women’s basketball and two sets of twins won medals in artistic swimming.
Jumpers leaped towards clouds, divers fell and so did three flags at a victory ceremony. No one complained loudly, it was that sort of Games. This was a game of humans but also of nations flexing talented muscles. China led with 132 golds, down from 151 in 2014, but it was Japan which was the story.
The 2020 Olympic host soared from 47 golds in 2014 to 75 here. Even in men and women’s hockey – not traditionally their strength – a polite contingent bowed to no one.
The Asian Games flag was handed to officials from Hangzhou, China who will host the Games in 2022. Business magnate Jack Ma and swimmer Sun Yang, both born in that city, appeared on stage to welcome Asia to their shores.
But this not a night for hellos but goodbyes. A night to be grateful to athletes and a nation which had stepped in, after Vietnam pulled out, to host these Games. As the athletes walked in, one held up his phone on which was written three words: “Terima kasih Indonesia”.
Thank you Indonesia.