Priceless satisfaction

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While the SEA Games has been the platform for thousands of athletes to have found glory and a launching pad of their sporting careers, it has done likewise for sportswriters.

For young journalists, the games would be their first international multi-sport event — sure test of their endurance.

It’s about whether one can withstand:

  • Newsroom demands, pressure, tight deadlines.

  • Covering multiple sports, hunting exclusives, working round the clock.

They are in a pressure cooker situation for more than a week.

The real test is when we cover the SEA Games on foreign soil because only between one and three reporters are sent by each newspaper compared to TV that normally deploys a large team.

It’s an arduous task for print journalists as newspapers treat the games seriously, opening extra pages to feature Malaysian participation which is usually in all sports.

Covering the games at home is a breeze as the entire newsroom is involved, including general, crime and entertainment reporters.

To date, applications by local print media (reporters and photographers) for KL Games accreditation have surpassed 1,000.

The games have grown into a giant event in recent years.

Recap: At the inaugural Bangkok meet in 1959, then known as SEAP Games, 518 athletes competed in 12 events over six days.

In KL, some 5,000 athletes from 11 countries will compete in 38 sports with 403 gold medals at stake.

The organisational structure has also evolved from an assemblage of volunteers to professional event managers and paid permanent organising committee members who run into hundreds.

Even the chef-de-mission get a monthly salary these days.

The cost has swelled to hundreds of million ringgit which was unthinkable in the early years when athletes were housed in universities.

Many sportswriters, including me, have grown with experience alongside the rapid growth of the games.

I was a rookie when I covered my first 1983 SEA Games in Singapore. My partner was another newbie, Leon Lim.

Our joy came with great fear of having to cover 18 sports, and being in the company of veteran journalists from here and Singapore.

There was no luxury of internet, laptop and mobile phone — just the typewriter.

So, the first thing I did was to purchase Caddie Traveller typewriter which cost me RM270, almost my monthly salary then.

We despatched stories through teleprinters or phoned in the story through pay phones.

Besides running around for daily stories, I ghost wrote Malaysian football captain, Soh Chin Aun’s, column (Towkay).

The Singapore experience served as a foundation to our sports writing.

It paved the way for my stint at two Olympics and two Asian Games as well.

Over the years, I have interviewed scores of athletes from Southeast Asia, a blessing to relish.

This year will be my 15th Games and I will be assisting the Olympic Council of Malaysia.

The SEA Games will always be close to my heart.

The challenges had its own priceless satisfaction.