Marathon winners finally get their prize money, but what does this mean for the government’s bid to add sports tourism to Bali’s attractions?

When Mike Akerman stepped up to the podium at the inaugural Indonesian International Marathon (IIM) in June and was promised IDR 100,000,000 (US$6,700), it never crossed his mind that it would take months to collect the prize money.

Yet here we are.

The Australian was runner-up in the men’s international category at the IIM, which took place on June 26. He was part of the Shuffle and Strides team, a group of running (and walking, as its name suggests) enthusiasts in Bali focused on raising mental health awareness on the island.

Other members of the Shuffle and Strides team who won the event include fellow Australian Jack Ahearn, who was the first to finish in the international men’s category; the Dutch-Australian Henrietta Brouwer, third in the women’s international category; as well as Nisha, an Indian citizen living in Hong Kong, who won first place.

It wasn’t until Ahearn’s Instagram post went viral in late August that the topic drew public scrutiny and turned into a media circus. In the Instagram post, Ahearn lamented that he had to go public with the case, claiming that race organizers ignored calls from him and his friends and even blocked his numbers.

the blame game

Ahearn and Brouwer received their money last week, while Nisha and Akerman finally received theirs yesterday. But they had to jump through numerous bureaucratic hurdles, including being blamed for not having a KITAS (limited stay permit) amid confusion over the terms and conditions of the race, and not having bank accounts in Indonesia.

“Obviously, we were only paid after the co-organizers bowed to public pressure from various angles, including the media, famous lawyers, government officials and tens of thousands of Indonesian netizens who collectively shouted ‘please stop shaming Indonesia’” Akerman said. bali coconuts yesterday.

Admitting that he would now “think twice” before participating in any event organized by the Indonesian Sports Committee (KONI) and private organizer PT Tata Media Prima (PT TMP), Akerman said the issue “has unnecessarily taken a toll on Indonesian reputation. ” even in the government’s plan to add sports tourism to Bali’s attractions.

Ahearn, Brouwer and Akerman were represented by Frank Hutapea, the son of superstar Hotman attorney Paris Hutapea, in the case. Nisha was represented by another legal team that she hired before the Hutapea clan entered the scene.

Nisha, who was visiting Bali during the event, had to fly back to Hong Kong in the second week of August and decided to hire Esra Karo Karo Kaban SH & Partners to handle the case. Ahearn, Nisha said, didn’t want her story to go public at first.

“When [Ahearn, Brouwer, and Akerman] I got a lawyer, they asked me if I wanted to join, [but] I had to respect my lawyer,” Nisha said. Balinese coconuts.

Although Nisha’s legal team went largely unnoticed during all the fuss, they actually filed the protest first with the race committee. Nisha, who earned IDR 120,000,000 ($8,000), was offered IDR 40,000,000 ($2,700) at one point, according to her legal team.

“We hope that this case will not happen again in the future. Please do not allow our country’s reputation to be tarnished by something so trivial, especially as the government has struggled to restore our tourism since the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Pio Ginting, one of Nisha’s lawyers.

Even after the payments were cleared, the race organizers still made surprising comments about the controversy.

PT TMP and the race committee said yesterday that they finally settled all the payment of the winners, “which was KONI’s commitment”. KONI General Secretary Ade Lukman said bali coconuts apart from the fact that, from the beginning, it was the responsibility of PT TMP to provide rewards to the winners.

“As the event got closer, their title sponsor pulled out, so they asked KONI for help. [….] including the provision of prize money in accordance with our regulations,” he said, adding that the entire controversy has become a lesson for future event planning.

Regardless of who did or didn’t do what, the whole circus may jeopardize the government’s sports tourism plans for Bali.

sick international obsession

Jakarta-based sports analyst Wina Setyawatie said the government should ban event organizers from holding sports events for a year, as well as enact a set of standardized requirements for sports events, regardless of whether or not they have international credibility.

However, it should be noted that the Indonesian IIM winners posted faster times than the international category winners.

For example, Ahearn ran the marathon in 3 hours and 30.48 minutes, far behind Indonesian men’s winner Agus Prayogo, who clocked 2 hours and 36.16 minutes. Muhammad Ady Saputra, third in the Indonesian category, ran the event in 2 hours and 48.43 minutes, well ahead of Akerman who posted a time of 3 hours and 56.44 minutes.

Nisha and Brouwer clocked 4 hours and 18.25 minutes and 5 hours and 19.05 minutes, respectively, behind Pretty Sihite, who came third in the Indonesian women’s category with a time of 3 hours and 40.34 minutes.

In fact, Odeta Elvina Naibaho and Irma Handayani, who took first and second place in the Indonesian women’s category, actually ran in 2 hours 53 minutes and 3 hours 14:31, respectively. They were both faster than Ahearn.

However, the time differences are perhaps not surprising, considering that the foreigners who participated in the event, like Ahearn, are simply long-distance enthusiasts and not elite marathon runners. However, for comparison, Ahearn took home IDR 142,500,000 (USD 9,559) after tax, while Agus Prayogo received IDR 112,500,000 (USD 7,547).

According to Wina, the obsession with international events puts KONI in a difficult situation, as their goal is supposed to be to reward the best athletes in Indonesia.

Wina said that none of this would have happened if the event only had one open category and chose the Indonesian winners from there, instead of separating the categories into local and international.

“Directly or indirectly, Indonesia’s reputation is tainted,” he said, adding that Indonesia should have a database for organizers of legitimate sporting events.

Mike Akerman is all smiles as he poses with his check and trophy. Photo: Obtained.

Akerman himself admitted that he is not a great athlete and never expected to win any prize money, acknowledging that 41 Indonesian male and female athletes finished before him.

“The substantial prize money we eventually received for winning the foreign category was originally supposed to go to ‘elite international athletes,’ but for some reason those athletes never joined,” he said.

Still, Akerman admitted that aside from the prize money issue, IIM was a great event based on his experience.

“I sincerely wish you all the best for future events,” he said.

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