Thai sports minister insists no foul play at the Games
THAILAND’S Sports Minister has poured scorn on accusations of foul play by the hosts of the SEA Games, insisting the Kingdom’s runaway success is down to hard work and fervent home support.
After a flood of complaints about biased judging, ranging from minor grumbles to official boycotts, Tourism and Sports Minister Suvit Yodmani said the Games were fair and Thailand’s 174 gold medals were well-deserved.
“It’s down to the morale of our athletes,” said Suvit.
“They have the crowd behind them, they are in high spirits. They also have the support of the government and have worked hard on sports psychology and mental preparation. I believe this will show at the Olympics too.”
Although unable to match Indonesia’s staggering tally of 194 gold medals in Jakarta in 1997, Thailand have dominated the 2007 Games with over 100 golds more than second-placed Malaysia.
Indonesia’s Sports Minister Adhyaksa Dault reportedly threatened to withdraw his team because of biased judging, telling the Thai-language Phujadkarn newspaper on Friday: “I want friendship from this SEA Games. It is not important if we win or lose, we didn’t get the points we deserved.”
Malaysia withdrew its team from sepaktakraw – a regional sport best described as volleyball with the feet – because of the hosts’ insistence on using a “dangerous” new rubber ball instead of the traditional rattan variety.
Before the Dec 6-15 Games started, 10-pin bowling powerhouse Indonesia were furious when the Thai team were allowed to practice behind closed doors on the freshly-oiled lanes when the other teams were locked out.
The Philippines forfeited six of their seven men’s medals matches in protest of the “comic show” they said had prevailed a day earlier when only one of their female boxers won gold. Thailand won 16 of the 17 boxing gold medals.
Suvit, who was appointed by the military after last year’s bloodless coup in Thailand, said the judges were internationally recognised and had no reason to show favouritism to the hosts.
“Some sports are controversial because it’s totally up to the judges as to who wins. It’s not a case of Thai judges giving Thais gold medals,” he said. “As for us, we know it’s been a fair Games. The referees and judges are from other countries and are of international standard. There are always complaints about judging. It’s part of sport.”
At the 2005 Games in the Philippines, then Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra took a swipe at the hosts for “lacking athletic spirit” and vowed to stage the Games fairly in 2007.
Despite the motto of “spirit, friendship and celebration”, the biennial 11-nation gathering is often dogged by tit-for-tat spats, dubious judging and cries of foul play by the hosts. – Reuters