Sports facilities must be accessible, inclusive to ensure wider public benefits

Abdul Karim (third left) after unveiling the banner to symbolically launch the leisure pool at Pandelela Rinong Aquatic Centre on May 31, 2023. Also seen is Gerald (second left) and Awang Putrayusrie (right).

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By Karen Bong

KUCHING, May 31: There is no point in spending hundreds of millions of ringgit to build sport facilities if they cater solely to hosting competitions, high-level sports events and professional athletes.

Minister of Youth, Sports and Entrepreneur Development Dato Sri Abdul Karim Rahman Hamzah stressed that sport facilities built using funding from the Sarawak government and taxpayers should not go to waste, but be made accessible to the general public to avoid the facilities becoming white elephants.

“Sport facilities should be accessible to the wider public, creating an inclusive environment where everyone can benefit and offering opportunities for individuals of all backgrounds and ages to engage in leisure and sport activities and develop their sporting potential.

“These facilities need to serve a broader purpose than just hosting competitions and become the exclusive spaces for elite athletes. Sometimes, people are unable to access tracks for running,” he told a press conference after officiating at the soft opening of the leisure pool at the Pandelela Rinong Aquatic Centre in Petra Jaya here today.

Abdul Karim, who is also Minister of Tourism, Creative Industry and Performing Arts, expressed hope to see more sports facilities under Sarawak Sports Corporation (SSC) made accessible and people-friendly.

He said providing accessible facilities will enable aspiring individuals, especially Sarawak children, to explore their sporting interests, acquire fundamental skills and kindle their passion for sports from a young age.

By focusing on early talent identification and nurturing, Abdul Karim believed that a strong foundation can be built to propel potential athletes towards elite levels of competition.

“When they are still young, let them go into the pool and familiarise with water. As they do so, they could gradually pick up the interest and passion for water sports like swimming or diving and train and develop their skills to become professional athletes,” he said.

However, he also emphasised the importance of proper regulation of these facilities to prevent misuse.

Abdul Karim also suggested that promotional materials be displayed at the sport facilities to encourage individuals to participate in training programmes.

“Coaches involved in talent scouting for water sports for example can identify individuals with suitable physiques and encourage them to undergo specialised training in swimming and diving,” he added.

With these initiatives and a renewed emphasis on inclusivity, Sarawak seeks to ensure its sports facilities become vibrant hubs for both recreational and competitive activities, fostering a dynamic and accessible sporting culture within the region.

Deputy Minister of Youth and Sport Development Dato Gerald Rentap Jabu and SSC chief executive officer Awang Putrayusrie Awang Redzuan were among those present. — DayakDaily