For Olympic blame, look to ourselves
published : 17 Aug 2012 at 00:00
newspaper section: News
Thai sports officials and sports association bosses should be grateful to the International Boxing Association (Aiba) for helping divert public attention away from the kingdom's poor performance at the London Olympic Games.
After boxer Kaew Pongprayoon's dramatic defeat in the light-flyweight final early on Sunday morning, the Thai public was quick to point the finger at Aiba as if it was the only culprit to blame for the Thai team's lack of golds in London.
Thai internet users were quick to find the boxing governing body's Facebook and Twitter pages. Within hours, Aiba's online channels were bombarded with tens of thousands of comments _ both in Thai and English _ from Thais, who were furious over the judges and referee's decision to award the gold medal to China's Zou Shiming, Kaew's rival.
Some called the Chinese boxer a "cheater" while others branded Aiba as a criminal, crazy and stupid organisation. One fan was so angry that he declared Thailand and China forever will be enemies and that descendants of Chinese are no longer welcome in the country.
One might argue that we should not take these online comments seriously because they are only kneejerk reactions and cannot represent true public sentiment. However, there is something about Thais' reaction to Kaew's defeat that is still worth pondering.
I will not discuss whether Kaew was robbed of his gold medal or not, and neither do I intend debating whether boxing should be dropped from the list of Olympic sports due to repeated problems with its officiating.
Corruption allegations surrounding Aiba are also irrelevant here because no matter how dirty or clean the association is, Thailand should not blame anyone but itself for its gold medal drought.
It's okay to spend a few days or even a week complaining about Aiba over "unfair" officiating that killed Thailand's hopes of bringing home a gold. Some social critics regard the anti-Aiba sentiment among Thais as "blind nationalism", while others joked that the Kaew-was-robbed plot for once helped unite the red- and yellow-shirt foes.
Maybe Thais just wanted to find someone else to blame so that we don't have to look too closely at ourselves.
Many people, including Kaew's Cuban coach Omar Paragon, were super quick to join the blame game against Aiba.
This may help ease the pain of loss for a while. But in the end, we will still have to look back at ourselves and identify "defeat factors" which may have helped prevent us from winning gold.
Thai Olympic chief and Deputy Prime Minister Yutthasak Sasiprapa was one of the few voices of reason.
He urged the public to accept the outcome and announced that the country would not protest to Aiba over the controversial bout.
"We want to find ways to prevent a repeat of the same problem in the future, rather than look to the past," he said.
I agree with him that we should accept the result, but I think the only way to prevent a repeat of the team's failure is to look to the past and fix our problems. They include budget constraints, misspending, corruption in sports development schemes, poor management of certain sports associations, lack of a long-term policy for athletes' development, and insufficient sports facilities.
Embarrassing mishaps such as the revelation that the National Shooting Sport Association ran out of practice bullets for its shooters before the competition, or the failure of Thai boxing officials to lodge a protest within the five-minute appeal period after the bout, should never happen again.
People in the private sector should also ask themselves if they have done enough to support our sporting talents or whether they just exploit athletes by showing up at major sporting events and pledging cash awards for the sake of boosting their own publicity.
Just hours before the bout, one soft-drink tycoon appeared with a huge pile of cash worth 10 million baht which he boasted he was prepared to give Kaew if he won gold.
Although we won only two silvers and a bronze, the London Games helped expose flaws in our sports policy and development. It's not wrong to call for an overhaul of an international sport association or better officiating. But we must tidy up our own performance too.
Kultida Samabuddhi is Deputy News Editor, Bangkok Post.