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Sport and youth: Indonesia’s great unifier

Interview - September 26, 2016

United World talks to Indonesia’s Minister of Youth and Sports Imam Nahrawi to discuss the country’s success at the 2016 Rio Olympics, as well as the importance of Indonesia’s youth-demographic bonus.



You just returned triumphant from the Olympics with one gold medal and two silvers, you must be very proud of your athletes. How did the Olympics unify Indonesia?

In principle, sport is a tool of unifying a nation, sport is unity, it also means diversity, and sport is a way to eliminate all differences. The Olympics is the highest dream of all athletes, for all stakeholders, to unite the mindset at the peak of achievement. Obviously, all the countries want to be a winner, all athletes want to be a champion. We do not have a grandiose target; what is important is to bring back the gold medal tradition to Indonesia. Athletes have been through a long and hard process, full of sacrifice and struggle, giving up everything they have for the sake of this nation, for one purpose: to win medals at the Olympics.


How will you continue that winning spirit into the next big event coming up, the Asian Games that Jakarta and Palembang will host in 2018?

The Asian Games is a very valuable moment for Indonesia to show our new spirit to the world, to show the world that Asia is the pearl that is to be explored and transformed to become even greater.

Even before the Asian Games, we will host events that will allow Indonesia to demonstrate our readiness to become the host of the Asian Games. This will boost the public’s trust that we are ready to host. One of the events is the Tafisa Games, Sports for All, which will be held in October 2016. The country delegations will take part in recreational sports instead of a real competition.

That’s pre-Asian Games, and post-Asian Games we will host some events. We are also currently working on Moto GP and Formula 1. We are working on unifying differences though sports – from Sabang to Merauke we will unify with sports.


Teten Masduki, Second Chief of Staff of the Executive Office of the President, has spoken about the importance of hosting international events in Indonesia and boosting its profile globally. What policies are you implementing to gain more events?

Major policies from President Jokowi see that sport is a promotional tool: the esteem of the nation. He said high priority should be given to the Asian Games and we are working on creating an adequate circuit where we can host the Moto GP in 2017. President Jokowi is committed to sports and I am convinced that there will be a lot of changes in the future, and we will not only align with events held in Malaysia or Singapore, but also far beyond that.

Gatot S. Dewa Broto (Deputy Minister for Sport Achievement): In a cabinet meeting, the President saw the presentation from the Minister of Public Works and Housing about the renovation of the sport center in Senayan. This is part of the international branding of Indonesia and it should be friendly and usable for everyone. The sport center was built before 1962 for the previous Asian Games, and President Jokowi said it should be better than the last time, not totally renovated because it’s national heritage, a national landmark of where the President would like to welcome the sporting heroes home.

The President also said that we should be prioritizing sports; everything should be at the standard of the Olympics. We have many limitations in financial resources, for Moto GP, F1, and others; the instruction is for the ministry to create a special agency that can provide these financial resources.


Apart from the supporting program for Olympians, obviously sports for school kids is very important for health, for their own education. What plans do you have for sports on this level in Indonesia?

I guess early-age fostering is absolutely prevalent in all countries. We have to maximally support the School of Sports as the part of a long-term process for the emergence of high achievers. We've got some sports schools, Sekolah Kekhususan Olahraga (SKO) in Ragunan, and some other places. There is also BBLB, which will be the place to foster the best young athletes for the Olympics. On a more social level, sport is the solution to many of society’s problems.

Gatot S. Dewa Broto: For the youth program, Indonesia has achieved well. For example, last year the Minister joined the Asian Schools Olympics program. Indonesia got the most awards compared to Singapore, Malaysia, and so on. In the youth program, Indonesia achieves well, but for athletes the problem is, when they have to go to university after high school, they have to choose either their sports or their career. We are now cooperating with a private university to give them scholarships abroad so they can study at university and can compete also; like this, Indonesia will be the winner in the youth program.


When you became Minister, what type of changes did you want to implement in the relationship to the different unions and associations?

We don’t want to just concentrate on solving the structural problems because usually the cost to complete the structure is much higher than the coaching. Now we are focusing on achievements first, and the issue of the board comes later. The government will intervene directly in the structure linked with the coaching. Each association must communicate intensively with the government so that we can manage and share the role; for example, the search of ‘high quality seeds’, fostering competition at the early age, and the promotion at the level of competition in each activity.


The Ministry of Youth and Sports is perhaps the most important ministry in Indonesia because it is focused on the youth and therefore the future. Pak Jokowi speaks about the demographic bonus and the importance of not only education, but also productivity. What programs do you have for the empowerment of Indonesia’s youth?

The demographic bonus is very important and positive; however if it were not handled in a productive way, it would be a fatal threat to sustained prosperity. Our programs must be sustainable, beginning with the formation of character, and utilizing natural resources, we must explore the full potential of entrepreneurship. The next generation will have alternative professions, not only civil servants, but also in the creative industries.


The creative economy is very important in fostering links with the private sector. What sort of interest have you had from the private sector, especially internationally?

I think we are open; even the President has issued a new negative investment list for anyone to get involved. For example, in the field of sports, anyone can build a stadium, facilities and infrastructure in the country. There must be convenience in investments; with licensing there should be ease of doing business. Investment is an absolute must, and it should be open to everyone, especially for the creative economy. We still need a lot of money for whoever wants to get involved because we have so much potential in our youth. We should encourage them to think and then promote local products at the international level.


When you look into the future, what are your top priorities as a Minister of Youth and Sports?

One of them is an Olympic bonus, and allowance for future athletes. The other major project is facilities, sports facilities, focusing on those sports which are Olympic. I’ll tell you about a bonus given at the Sports Heroes Homecoming Parade. In the history of Olympic bonuses, this is the biggest in Indonesia; the gold medalist got a 5 billion rupiah bonus. It was the third biggest of any country.

Beyond that, Olympic athletes got an annual pension allowance – Tunjangan Hari Tua. So if they won medals, and then retired, their lives would be covered by the government until death. This only happened in the era of President Jokowi.

In the area of youth, the President never ceases to encourage the creative industry; youth should also be a promoter of cultural richness, tradition, tourism destinations, and the youth should be actively involved in them.


As a Minister and father, what kind of legacy do you want to build for Indonesia’s youth?

The legacy would be the passion for change, youth should not give up, and there must be innovations. The state is owned by Indonesia’s youth in the future, and I hope there will be sporting momentum like never before.


If you were to be given a gold medal, in which sport would you want to receive it?