Brunei Darussalam National
Olympic Council (BNOC) president
His Royal Highness Prince Hj Sufri
Bolkiah (L) talking to Dr Hj Danish
Zaheer (R), Head of the Sports
Medicine and Research Centre
(SMRC) at the Hassanal Bolkiah
National Stadium in Berakas, as
Minister of Culture, Youth and
Sports Pehin Orang Kaya Pekerma
Laila Diraja Dato Paduka Hj Hazair
Hj Abdullah (2nd R) looks on. His
Royal Highness visited SMRC to
find out about the fitness tests
undergone by the athletes
representing Brunei at next month's
Commonwealth Games in New
Delhi. Picture: Infofoto
The country's readiness for next month's Commonwealth Games (CWG) in New Delhi came under the microscope by Brunei Darussalam National Olympic Council (BNOC) president His Royal Highness Prince Hj Sufri Bolkiah yesterday, who suggested that there was room for improvement in terms of preparation and organisation.
With the Oct 3-14 tournament just days away, the hands-on chief of the national body met with the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports' national selection and evaluation committee and visited the Sports Medicine and Research Centre (SMRC) at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas.
The meeting was frank, open and transparent aimed at building a close working relationship between the ministry, committee and BNOC while the visit was dedicated to fitness testing.
Geared towards identifying areas of concern and improvement, the meeting and visit lasted a total of three hours.
For the third time in a row the Sultanate will be represented by the lawn bowls teams at the Games, while a disabled athlete competing in shot put will be flying the flag in the Para-sports held simultaneously.
It has been setback after setback for the Games, where dengue fever is posing a risk and terrorism is an ever-lurking threat to the 19th edition of the multi-sport tournament.
Factor in reports of the Athletes Village which welcomes its first batch of athletes today racing against time to be up to standard, and an under-construction foot overbridge connecting the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium to the parking lot collapsing on Tuesday, and it was only natural the president would bring it up during the nearly two-hour meeting.
"The health and security of the athletes is my main concern," he said during the meeting at the Hassanal Bolkiah National Stadium in Berakas.
"I got feedback from the president of the Commonwealth Games Federation (Michael Fennel) that he was not satisfied with the living conditions, so I recommend that we search for alternate housing if the Village cannot be cleaned in time.
"Dengue fever is also another issue. We need to be prepared and we need to bring qualified medical staff.
"This is simple but very important. If at the last minute we want to send a medical team... How? We might have the medicine but the medical officials need to know what to use," he added.
Though the committee admitted that having a medical official was important, the country's 18-member contingent does not currently include one and His Royal Highness was quick to point it out.
He was, however, pleased to know that the athletes will be receiving their vaccination shots today.
The committee agreed that the developments of the past few days including a recent attack when two gunmen sprayed bullets on a bus of tourists which left two injured had raised their "alert systems".
Citing health and security reasons, top athletes have already pulled out of the troubled Games and countries England and Wales for example have said they might not attend.
Talk is also floating that the Games might even be cancelled or postponed.
"I hope the Games will go smoothly," said His Royal Highness.
"If it is really dangerous we can decide (whether to send or not) later.
"I don't want to be thanked, I just want cooperation," he insisted.
Throughout the nearly two-hour meeting His Royal Highness advocated for increased collaboration between the selection committee and BNOC, saying that decisions must be discussed because at the end of the day it is the latter that endorses the athletes.
The committee which chooses athletes to represent Brunei for any contingent the country sends to regional and international tournaments and receives input from various sources outlined their selection criteria to His Royal Highness. Prior to the meeting the president was briefed on the athletes' fitness testing by Dr Hj Danish Zaheer, Head of the SMRC which is under the Ministry of Culture, Youth and Sports.
With components such as stamina and flexibility in the fitness test, Dr Hj Danish explained that only athletes who score 85 per cent or more on their tests are eligible for selection.
Though a BNOC representative was at the last fitness test on August 25, that is not always the case and His Royal Highness suggested that BNOC members be present at future tests so they can justify why athletes fail.
He also put forward the idea that the search for athletes should be widened.
"Don't concentrate on Brunei-Muara (district) only, give other people a chance to prove to us that they can do something too," he was overheard saying.
"Don't have favourites. If the athletes are good, they're good ... If they're not good, they're not good.
"It's not all about me though. You (committee) got some ideas, I got some ideas ... we work together.
"I am not angry; I just want to see improvements from year to year. I know we have good athletes."
During the meeting, officials from the committee said that the lawn bowlers have been training since early in the year when they knew they were named as candidates to go to New Delhi.
Under the guidance of an Australian coach since August, the team have been training daily and have returned from an eight-day training stint at the Warilla Bowls & Recreation Club in Australia hosts of the last five World Cup Singles.
In addition to passing their fitness tests, among other criteria for the athletes' selection include discipline, fighting spirit and attendance during training.
On another note, the president disclosed that not only is BNOC still waiting for the post-mortem report on last month's Youth Olympic Games (YOG) in Singapore, reports for three events last year 3rd Asian Indoor Games in Vietnam, Asian Martial Arts Games in Thailand and Asian Youth Games in Singapore have also yet to be delivered to the national body.
Brunei only competed in two disciplines during the Aug 14-26 YOG; athletics and swimming. Swimmers Amanda Liew Jia Xin and Jeremy Joint Riong failed to return with medals, with 400m hurdler Maziah Mahusin also in the same boat.
"I suggest that next time the secretariats prepare the reports while they are still at the events," said the president.
"After the matches they can sit down with the coaches and talk. Why did we lose? What can we do (to become better)?" he added.
The flag handing over ceremony for the contingent will be held on Saturday, during which the final list of athletes and officials will also be announced.
Courtesy from Brunei Times