Skip to main content
Original Issue


Indonesia put on its Games of the New Emerging Forces, but what emerged in two weird weeks was a new kind of chaos

Almost every day during the past two weeks some 400 expertly coached, highly disciplined and obviously terrified athletes from Communist China appeared at the stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia. In an unvariable routine, they piled out of their buses, answered roll call, won their games, raced back to their buses, answered roll call, climbed back into their buses and were driven back to their quarters. They plainly were not afraid of being beaten by their opponents. What they were afraid of was missing the bus.

The scene was the now-celebrated Games of the New Emerging Forces, and Communist China, to the surprise of no one, emerged victorious, with 65 gold medals compared with 31 for the nearest emerging contender—Russia. The results, however, were the least impressive aspect of this remarkable sports event, one which assumed a legendary character even before the first race was run and which became really awesome by the third day. That was when Camara Mami, a heavyweight from Guinea, climbed into the ring dead-drunk—evidently having tried to bolster his spirits after seeing his massive opponent, a Mongolian named Nurmahanov—and was knocked out, or just passed out, after the bout had lasted 20 seconds.

If the Games of the New Emerging Forces are any indication, when the new forces finally do emerge it is going to be with flags flying and bands playing, amid cries of foul, fights with referees and scandals over the sale of tickets. It may turn out, in fact, that the games have been the most completely disorganized sports event of which history has any record, thus achieving an unexpected grandeur of a sort. They already have added fables to the folklore of sport, as well as epics of confusion and inefficiency beside which such humdrum matters as the times of races—times that were pretty humdrum themselves—fade into insignificance.

The melodrama actually had its beginning during the Fourth Asian Games, another Olympic-type spectacular held in Jakarta last fall. Indonesia refused to let Israel and Nationalist China enter, and when the representative from India, who happened to be an official of the Asian Games, made a formal protest, the exuberant Indonesians booed the Indian national anthem, razzed the Indian athletes, wrecked the Indian Embassy and forced the Indian representative to flee for his life.

Last February the International Olympic Committee suspended Indonesia for making a travesty of the event it had hosted. The committee had also refused to recognize the Asian Games or record the results. In Jakarta, where nobody remembered how the Indians had been treated, the suspension was considered an international affront. President Sukarno decided he would get even by organizing a rival athletic event that would put the old established powers in their place. He first considered creating the Asian-African Games, then the African-Asian-Latin American Games. The term that he finally decided on, the "new emerging forces," comes from the title of a weighty book on international affairs, Builders of Emerging Nations, by the American writer, Vera Micheles Dean. The phrase has become familiar throughout the Orient. When Sukarno formally announced he was making the games a symbol of the struggle of the emerging forces against the established forces, he added, "Yes, let that be so."

It was indeed so. When Sukarno says, "Let that be so," about anything, people know what he means. In this venture into sport, however, Sukarno gave many indications during the next six months that he wished it were not so. Two things were in short supply: athletes and money.

Most sports federations, concerned about keeping their Olympic eligibility, warned their athletes not to compete. Russia, taking no chances, sent only second-stringers. President Macapagal ordered the Philippine army to send a delegation after the national sports federation refused to do so. More often, the athletic representatives of the emerging forces who turned up in Jarkarta had no official standing. For example, there was a team from Angola, but it did not represent that Portuguese colony. It represented a group that hopes to take over the colony. Israel was absent again, of course, but there was a team representing Palestine Arabia, which intends to emerge someday and seize Israel. There were also groups representing still nonexistent governments which hope to take over Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Somali and assorted other lands. The marchers from these nebulous principalities were often not even athletes. No athletes at all arrived from Algeria, Belgium (emerging?), Burma, Bolivia, Mongolia, Nigeria, Senegal, Czechoslovakia and Venezuela for the opening exercises. What with athletes representing nonexistent countries, and countries represented by nonexistent athletes, there was a ghostly air over the entire enterprise. With no charter, no organized rules and no system of scoring ready on opening day, there was also no screening of the contenders for eligibility. Sonny Liston could have competed if he had wanted to.

But one thing there was plenty of was enthusiasm and interest. When ticket-holders arrived at beautiful, Russian-built Bung Karno Stadium on opening day they sustained a great shock. The 103,000-seat arena already was filled. Gate crashers had taken it over, including the seats for distinguished guests. Forged tickets had been printed by the thousands, and black marketeers had done a flourishing business selling 1,000-rupiah ($1) seats for 15,000 rupiahs.

The stadium was thus doubly packed by the time Sukarno's motorcade arrived at 3 in the afternoon. The presidential party entered with the president's limousine surrounded by scores of motorcycle police and armored cars. But Sukarno was not along. He came an hour later by helicopter, looking grim. He thawed a little, but only a little, at the sight of 200 beautiful brown-skinned girls perched on the stairway leading to the presidential box.

The parading then began. A platoon of the Women's Army Corps entered to the beat of a march by John Philip Sousa. Indonesians love music, especially Sousa's marches and the hit tune of the moment, God Bless America, sung by Connie Francis. No matter what relations are with the U.S., the strains of The Washington Post March and Semper Fidelis and even The Stars and Stripes Forever ring out over the most violently nationalistic Indonesian events. Marching to these stirring tunes, the Women's Army Corps carried 56 banners of the contending new emerging forces, who followed in strict alphabetical order. The athletes of future Angola came first, and so on down the colorful line of march. Ceylon's athletes introduced a somewhat somber note. They passed by Sukarno with heads bowed and hands folded in prayer. Next the solemn-vis-aged, hard-marching, arm-swinging Chinese swept into the stadium, as if they planned to occupy it. The occupation was led by the towering center of the basketball team, over 6 feet 8 inches, and the next three ranks were made up of North Chinese who were all over 6 feet 4. Nobody was going to be able to say the Chinese are short. The Mexicans, by contrast, entered dancing, fiesta style, with mariachi singers and heel-clicking senoritas.

At 5:20 p.m. Sukarno tucked his swagger stick under his arm and said, "The first Games of the New Emerging Forces are now open." He said it three times, first in Indonesian, then in English and French. Doves flew, balloons and banners floated, flags fluttered, cannon boomed, trumpets played, Mexicans danced, Chinese giants marched, Russian Cossacks stomped, Korean girls screamed and waved colored handkerchiefs and a banner was hoisted bearing the slogan of the occasion, "Onward! No Retreat." Thereupon 1,300 primary students rushed out on the field and went through gymnastic exercises that spelled out WELCOME, and recited: "We are dancing to enhance the sports festival of the new emerging forces. We have won. Undoubtedly we will win. We will get the star of victory."

Regardless of what the games lacked in athletic finesse, they did provide the wildest, most exuberant spectacle in Indonesia's recent history, and the Indonesians loved every minute of it. Surprisingly, their greatest applause during the opening day ceremonies was for a country they presumably dislike, The Netherlands. The Netherlands was represented by a contingent that was pathetically small. It was an almost painful reminder of the days when Indonesia had been the richest Dutch possession. The team got the greatest ovation of the day. In contrast, the smart, snappy Indonesian delegation of 500—the largest at the games—was greeted with much less interest.

It was immediately obvious, once the athletics themselves began, that Communist China would completely dominate all the new emerging forces. The most powerful of the old established forces have never walked over the Olympic Games in the commanding fashion of the Chinese in Jakarta. On the first day China picked up six gold medals, with five firsts in track and field and a world record in a weight-lifting event. On the second day the Chinese won six gold medals in eight track and field events, and so it went. The final result found China with 65 firsts, 46 seconds, 47 thirds. Russia had 31, 20 and 8, and Indonesia was third with 19, 24 and 30.

In the absence of any real contest, events of this sort can nevertheless possess intrinsic interest if the individual performances are outstanding. But few of the contenders in Jakarta were really accomplished athletes. China won the 400-meter run, for example, with a time of 49.5, which is hardly up to the standard of a U.S. high school track meet. The Arabian winner of the 1,500-meter race was timed at 4:00.8, more than 7 seconds slower than qualifying time for the Tokyo Olympics. And even good performances were apt to be tarnished by the general disorganization. At the 100-meter final the Cambodian and Chinese sprinters broke before the gun, a false start that was obvious to every person in the stadium except the starter. This left Mohammed Sarengat, the Indonesian sprinter who had won in the Asian Games with a time of 10.5, sitting in the blocks, while China's Lin Chingfen swept to victory in 10.7. The Indonesian track men were not left behind in a later race, however. When Joojte Oroh, their only triumphant track star—he won two gold medals—was leaving the stadium with his fiancée, five members of the special police stopped them at the gate. After a hot exchange of words, Oroh swung on a special policeman and knocked him down. Then he knocked down another. As he himself was being felled by truncheon blows, the Indonesian track team, which was housed near the gale, rushed out and cleaned up on the remaining guards, who dashed in unmilitary fashion to the safety of a guard shack nearby. The winning time for their sprint was not recorded.

It was only natural that after 12 tempestuous days the games should end in a riot. As hundreds of spectators brawled on the field a soccer game between the United Arab Republic and North Korea had to be decided by a toss of a coin. The score was 1-1, but the U.A.R. was declared the gold medal winner.

What did Indonesia get from the games? They cost $6 million to put on, a stupendous amount in view of the country's economic situation. Schoolchildren solicited funds, hotel bills were hiked, all cars were stopped by the police and plastered with stickers that amounted to a tax of as much as $10 per car. Eventually, a large sum set aside for a French-built hydroelectric project had to be diverted to help finance the event. Communist China paid a part of the cost, importing the opponents from places like Mali in Africa, Albania and North Vietnam, and it also donated 50 tons of gymnastic equipment and 3,000 basketballs. But Indonesia bore the brunt of the expense.

The return, in terms of propaganda, is hard to assess. Any satisfaction Sukarno derived from having stood up to the International Olympic Committee on the matter of Indonesia's suspension must have been pretty hollow: the suspension was ended before the games were held, with the stipulation that the Indonesians refrain from chasing Indian delegates in the future. But there were some rewards. According to the official Chinese Communist news agency, when the Chinese athletes assembled at their quarters in International Village, they talked with the Cuban athletes "in an atmosphere of friendship and unity." That can be valuable. What did they discuss? The Cuban captain told the Chinese that only after liberation did volleyball gain popularity in Cuba. Before liberation, he said, American coaches came to Cuba to teach Cubans to play the game, but they did not come to raise the level of play, only to promote the sale of American volleyballs.


Marching in the opening-day ceremonial parade in Jakarta were such non-new countries as Belgium, which had no team to follow its flag.


Passing up pomp in favor of zip, the Mexican delegation delighted the crowd with fiesta-style singing and dancing.


Indonesian lovelies who flanked the path to his seat earned a smile from President Sukarno.


Once seated. Sukarno viewed proceedings with the expression of a man worried about getting a $6 million return from a $6 million investment. He arrived late, and he left early.