The history of Islamic Solidarity Games actually began in 1993 when Iran initiated the games by holding it exclusively for women athletes for the first time.
Jakarta (ANTARA News) - Indonesian Youth and Sports Minister Roy Suryo has finally decided to move the venue of the Third Islamic Solidarity Games (ISG) 2013 to Jakarta, ending a controversy about whether Riau Province was appropriate or not to be the next host of the international event.

The ISG 2013 was initially to be held in Pekanbaru, Riau Province, on June 6-17, 2013, but due to some problems, the Games` venue would be moved to Jakarta and its implementation would be postponed to September 22-October 1, 2013, the minister said.

The minister said he made the decision after receiving reports from the Indonesian Olympic Committee (KOI), the National Sports Committee (KONI), and the ministry`s technical team.

"After having an intense discussion with KOI, Riau province, and the Games organizers, we have all agreed to postpone the Games," Minister Roy Suryo said on April 22, 2013.

In the reports, they basically suggested that the ISG 2013 implementation should be delayed because the construction works of some facilities and infrastructure for the games were not yet finished.

One of the considerations to move the ISG`s venue is the fact that Riau Governor Rusli Zainal was recently named as a suspect by the Corruption Eradication Commission (KPK) in a bribery case related to the implementation of the National Games (PON) in Pekanbaru last year.

Another consideration is unsolved debt arrears of the PON main stadium construction amounting Rp240 billion to a consortium.

"The decision to shift the ISG venue is also taken based on inputs received from a number of parties," he noted.

A number of observers from the Islamic Solidarity Sport Federation (ISSF) hailing from several countries had expressed their objection if the ISG would be held in Riau because many of the sport venues have not yet met international standard, the minister added.

The sports minister said October was the best option for a rescheduled Games, considering Muslims` fasting month of Ramadhan and Idul Fitri celebrations will fall in July and August this year.

"In November, we all have to focus on SEA [Southeast Asian] Games preparations," he said.

A budget of Rp 200 billion ($20.5 million) has been earmarked for Indonesia`s hosting of the Islamic Solidarity Games and he said no more money would be funneled into the event.

President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono approved the postponement, he added. "I have explained the current situation to the president," the minister said.

The minister stated he was ready to apologize to all Games participants and to the Islamic Solidarity Sports Federation.

The ISG is expected to be participated in by athletes from 57 member countries of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC)

The Games will hold 17 sports to be competed, such as swimming, gymnastic, athletic, football, taekwondo, volleyball, weightlifting,

karate, badminton, pencaksilat (martial art), archery, shooting, wrestling, basketball, handball, tennis, table tennis, fencing, and cycling.

Jakarta Governor Joko Widodo (Jokowi) hailed the decision to move the ISG`s venue to the country`s capital city.

"We are ready, it`s not a problem. We have often organized similar events. This is a trust that the government has given us. So, this is for the national interest," Jokowi said last April 2013.

If necessary, Jakarta is ready to allocate additional funds for the implementation of ISG, he said enthusiastically.

"However, Minister Roy Suryo and I have calculated that the funds for the ISG are adequate so far," he said after receiving Minister Roy Suryo who went to the governor`s office recently to discuss about the moving of the ISG`s venue from Pekanbaru (Riau Province) to Jakarta.

"I asked for the governor`s permission to hold the ISG in Jakarta. We are grateful to the Jakarta administration for approving the plan," Roy Suryo stated.

The minister described the decision to move the venue and delay the game implementation as an effort to save the event and fix the image of Indonesia in the international eyes.

Some Riau`s officials and businessmen, however, were disappointed with the minister`s decision.

"I hope the venue of ISG not to be moved," Emrizal Pakis, the deputy chairman of the Riau organizing committee of the ISG 2013, said in April 2014.

Riau Governor Rusli Zainal was also very disappointed and considered the minister`s decision as unilateral action.

"I understand the minister made such a unilateral decision because he is new in the ministerial post. He does not know how we have worked so hard over the last three years to make preparations for the ISG 2013," Zainal told the press on April 23, 2013.

Besides, the Riau organizing committee has spent so much time and money to recruit personnel and build a number facilities for the games, he said.

"But our efforts are not appreciated at all by the minister," he said.

Youth and Sports Minister Roy Suryo was appointed in January 2013 after Andi Mallarangeng stepped down amid graft allegations.

Chairman of Riau`s Hotel and Restaurant Association (PHRI) Ondi Sukmara also protested the minister`s decision that he considered as controversial and not favorable to Riau`s tourism industry.

The province has lost a chance to promote its tourism potentials to OIC member countries due to the minister`s decision to move the ISG`s venue from Pekanbaru to Jakarta, he said.

"We see that the central government and in particular the youth and sports minister have no sensitivity of Riau`s tourism potentials," he said.

Riau had initially been chosen to host the ISG 2013 because the province is relatively close to Singapore and Malaysia. The delegation of ISSF with the Indonesia Olympic Committee (KOI) had once visited Riau to see the Games` venues in July 2011. The ISSF

delegation at that time said they were satisfied with Riau`s efforts to develop and prepare the venues.

The Islamic Solidarity Games is a multinational, multi-sport event. The Games involve the elite athletes of the OIC member nations. Non-Muslim citizens in the member countries are also allowed to take part in the Games.

The ISG`s participating countries include Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Bahrain, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya, Palestine, Kuwait, Malaysia, Brunei Darussalam, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Oman, Morocco, Uzbekistan, Senegal, Tunisia, Guinea, Congo, Jordan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Somalia.

The Islamic Solidarity Games Federation (ISSF) is the organization that is responsible for the direction and control of the Islamic Solidarity Games.

The First ISG was held in 2005 in Saudi Arabia. The supposed second event was cancelled after it had been originally scheduled to take place in October 2009 in Iran, following a dispute between Iran and the Arab World over the use of the term Persian Gulf in logos for the Games.

The history of Islamic Solidarity Games actually began in 1993 when Iran initiated the games by holding it exclusively for women athletes for the first time. The event was minimally attended by only eight Islamic nations, including Kyrgyzstan, Azerbaijan and Tajikistan.

Iran had its chance to host the event again in 1997 and attracted 24 nations this time. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Sudan, Jordan, Fiji and Indonesia were among the new-comers; however, the games once more did not host male athletes.

Following the successful experience of Iran`s initiative to hold the games for Muslim women athletes, Saudi Arabia set to emulate it by holding a mini-Olympics in 2005 for Islamic athletes based on the model of Iran`s 1993 games. Saudi held the games for both men and women and succeeded in attracting 57 participating nations. (*)

Reporter: Fardah
Editor: Heru Purwanto
Copyright © ANTARA 2013