Ramadani Saputra, Jakarta – President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo decided on Thursday to push back the 2020 National Games (PON) in Papua to October next year due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The decision followed recommendations from Youth and Sports Minister Zainudin Amali and Coordinating Human Development and Culture Minister Muhadjir Effendy – both had expressed doubt as to whether Papua would be ready to host the Games initially scheduled for October this year.
"One of our considerations is that the construction projects for several venues have been delayed [due to the pandemic]. [Construction] materials from Java could not enter Papua after Papua closed its airports and ports," Zainudin said in a virtual press briefing on Thursday.
"After considering our reports, the President decided to postpone the National Games," he said.
Papua Governor Lukas Enembe had earlier told Zainudin that Papua was currently focusing on battling the outbreak, making it impossible for the region to prepare for the PON.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Papua has reported 123 cases and six deaths.
In a meeting last week with House of Representatives Commission X, which oversees sports, lawmakers gave a nod to the sports ministry's initial plan to push back the PON to March next year. But the proposal was met with opposition from the National Sports Committee's (KONI) regional offices, which projected that their athletes would not be ready for the Games.
Zainudin said October would be the most convenient time to host the PON next year, one of Indonesia's busiest years for sports as the country is expected to take part in at least seven international multisport events, including the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics.
Next year, Indonesia is also set to host FIFA's Under-20 World Cup and the 2021 Indonesian MotoGP in Mandalika, West Nusa Tenggara.