Rizki Fachriansyah, Jakarta – The ongoing COVID-19 health emergency, which has forced Indonesian sports to postpone a host of major events, should be used as an opportunity to "reinvent" the national sports ecosystem, President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo has said.
Speaking during a virtual event on Wednesday to mark National Sports Day, the President said that the current circumstances presented a ripe opportunity for far-reaching, system-wide reform to salvage the sports industry, particularly as physical contact was being actively discouraged to protect the public's health.
National Sports Day falls each year on Sept. 9.
"The current conditions give us the opportunity for a reboot," said Jokowi. "I call on [all stakeholders] to reflect on themselves and prepare next steps to trigger a massive leap [forward] in the world of sports."
Continuing, he said that sports reform could start by reviewing athlete training and development and bolstering collaboration between independent sports organizations and the Youth and Sports Ministry.
Jokowi also urged the sports industry to incorporate the latest scientific and technological advancements, like big data analytics, to absorb more athletic talents and develop a competent management structure.
"Remember that we are a country of more than 267 million people, the majority of whom belong to the younger generations. It doesn't make any sense for us to be short of talented athletes," Jokowi said.
He added that Indonesian sports needed more household names and inspirational icons whose sporting achievements could shape the industry's future.
Also during the virtual event, Jokowi highlighted the importance of developing sports tourism in Indonesia, which could pay dividends to the national economy.
Sports tourism also had the potential to create a positive trickle-down effect on regional economies by providing greater exposure to otherwise obscure tourist destinations and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) across the archipelago, the President said.
"As the pandemic continues, more people will [look to] outdoor sports in open nature. We have to use this opportunity to promote Indonesia's natural beauty," he said.
The COVID-19 epidemic has thrown Indonesia's sports calendar into disarray, with many high-profile sporting events rescheduled or postponed indefinitely.
Earlier this year, the President decided to reschedule the 2020 National Games (PON) to October 2021 because of the health crisis. The games were originally scheduled to be held next month in Papua.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian Basketball League (IBL) started its 2020 season in January, but was then suspended the season on March 13 in response to the growing spread of the coronavirus and attendant restrictions.
In early August, the sports ministry approved the IBL's proposal to resume its 2020 season in October. It remains to be seen, however, how the Jakarta administration's announcement yesterday on reinstating the large-scale social restrictions (PSBB) on Monday might affect the sport.