MALAYSIANS have reason to celebrate as so far, the Rio Olympics has been the best Olympic Games for our country since we began competing in the Games in 1956 as “Malaya” and, subsequently, as Malaysia from 1964. The country ended the 2016 Olympics with its highest medals tally — four silver and one bronze — from badminton, 10m platform synchronised diving and the Keirin cycling events. This is the best gift in conjunction with our Merdeka celebration as the Malaysian Olympic team have brought home the most medals in a single Olympic Games.

Previously, we were only able to win no more than two medals. Even if none of the team brought back a gold medal, each of them should be honoured for his and her hard work, grit and fighting spirit. Our badminton ace, Datuk Lee Chong Wei, will come home a hero as he has fought valiantly in men’s singles badminton to clinch a silver, his third silver medal in three consecutive Olympic Games. No one has ever accomplished what he has. It was also heartening to see that in the past two weeks, Malaysians were more united than we had been in recent months as we cheered and supported our Olympians competing with the world’s greatest athletes.

The camaraderie was evident when we cheered for Chong Wei in the semi-final and final matches of men’s singles badminton as well as other shuttlers, Chan Peng Soon, Goh Liu Ying, Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong. Malaysians shed tears of joy when Chong Wei beat his nemesis, Lin Dan of China, when divers Pandelela Rinong and Cheong Jun Hoong clinched silver medal and when cyclist Azizulhasni Awang, a bronze.

Whenever our shuttlers scored points or won a match, Malaysian fans shouted and clapped in unison, be it in their homes, workplaces, mamak stalls or restaurants and public spaces such as Seri Pentas in Selangor, Dataran Putrajaya and the open space at Gurney Paragon Mall in Penang. This shows that sport is able to foster unity as it helps us put aside our differences so that we can support our Olympic team. The social media sphere, which is normally used as a forum to argue, exchange unsavoury words or throw nasty accusations, is now filled with positive and inspiring words that come from Malaysians of all walks of life, backgrounds, skin colour, religions and political affiliations.

National unity can be clearly seen when Malaysians watch international sport matches together in public spaces or restaurants. I would like to urge the government, sports councils and the private sector to take the initiative to hold public gatherings during major sports tournaments, similar to the ones organised by Perbadanan Putrajaya, Media Prima and Gurney Paragon during the recent Olympics badminton matches. Meanwhile, Chong Wei should be a figure of unity as he represents the many unique aspects of a Malaysian. During the Rio Games, he spoke in Malay to his Indonesian coach, Hendrawan, Hokkien to his Malaysian coach, Tey Seu Bock, and Mandarin to Lin Dan. During interviews with the media, he was at ease speaking in Bahasa Malaysia, English and Mandarin.

Sports is a unifying factor that encourages people to come together to support the national team or athletes. It also fosters a sense of nationalism, social integration, respect, tolerance and selflessness.


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