August 15, 2012
Malaysia@Olympics 2012: Show us the Accounts
by R. Nadeswaran@http://www.thesundaily.my
THE Olympics is over but for the British media, the fever is still running high with interviews, post-mortems, analyses and commentaries on what has been described as the best ever performance in 100 years.
On the home front, Datuk Lee Chong Wei and Pandelela Rinong Pamg are being heaped with praise, which they both rightly deserve. They did the nation proud and have set the standards and the tone for others to follow.
In the meantime, there are many equations and variables that are being drawn in relation to medals and medal winners. Comparisons have been drawn showing the populations of participating countries and the number of medals won. There’s also a computation as to the number of medals to the size of the contingent.
Even more succinct is the amount of money the country spent in preparing the athletes against the medals won. Britain’s 64 medals including 29 golds cost £4 million (RM20 million) apiece. Others have spent more while most have spent less. Judging by the British standards, our medals came at half their cost.
Malaysians have been told that the quest for a first ever gold medal at the London Olympics did not materialise but National Sports Council (NSC) Director-General Datuk Seri Zolkples Embong told reporters in London that it is “still deemed a success.”
“As for winning a gold medal, we did not succeed but it is not a failure because our medal haul equalled the Atlanta feat. The London Olympics also showed that we don’t have to depend on badminton alone for medals,” he said.
We will leave these remarks to be deciphered and interpreted by those in the know, but what we already know is that Zolkeples has admitted that the “Road to London 2012” programme with a RM20 million budget and aimed at winning the country’s first ever gold medal in the Olympics, did not reach its objective.
So, the definition of the words – success and failure – gets blurred as we go along, and depending on who is saying it and who is analysing it, the variation could be a mile. What is more significant to taxpayers is that money, all RM20 million of it was used properly in the preparation of the athletes and not for junkets and holidays.
Because it has been the usual practice of the NSC and the Sports Ministry to keep the expenditure and the figures a secret, we can only speculate as to whether the sum included the cost of sending NSC and other sports officials to various events in preparation for and to the London games.
If the work of these officials is to “monitor” our athletes and distribute Malaysian flags and organise the support group, then it is money wasted. If they are on the sidelines to hug the players and steal the limelight from the coaches, then it is certainly not justified.
However, if they are there to give their expertise or offer advice to enhance the performance of the athletes, then this cannot be questioned. There is nothing wrong with the taxpayer exercising his right to know how much was spent on each athlete and each of the various disciplines.
Let it be said that no one is grudging the money spent but what is asked for is some form of accountability. It’s not just the Olympics that you notice the presence of officials but at other qualifying meets and major competitions.
What are their roles in these instances? Just because they hold the purse strings, can their expensive outings be justified? Other than the Olympics which come under the purview of the Olympic Council of Malaysia, other sports are governed by the respective national associations.
Today, four years after the Brickendonbury debacle where grandiose plans for a training centre had to be aborted, Malaysians are still in the dark as to how much was spent on travel and professional fees. Pushed for details, the answer has always been “sulit”.
There is no such thing as confidential when it comes to accounting for people’s money, unless of course it is spent on defence systems or procurements which may be of a sensitive nature.
Let’s start the “Road to Rio” programme with a full blast from the past – a complete set of expenditure and where the money went in the quest for gold in London. This will be rewarded with a deserved a gold medal from the rakyat.