12, 13, 14 Aug 2009: these were the final 3 days before the big-crunch, the opening of the games and then the day when all the competitions begin officially at all venues. The teams have begun arriving, the banners are going up everywhere, t-shirts are being distributed, occasional screams and shouts through the various venues reminds everyone else that of the stress and final push to the finishing line (for the organizers) have begun.
For those who are unfamiliar with the ASEAN Para Games, here is a little bit of history :
The 1st ASEAN Para Games, held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia on October 25, 2001 to October 30, 2001, was the initial major sports event of the ASEAN Para Sports Federation (APSF). The APSF was conceived in the special meeting of the National Paralympic Committees of the ASEAN countries during the 10th Malaysian Paralympiad and the ASEAN Cities Invitational. The ASEAN Para Games, the “parallel” sports event for the disabled after every Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games), was patterned after the Paralympics and the FESPIC Games. The 2nd ASEAN Para Games was held in Hanoi, Vietnam from December 19, 2003 to December 27, 2003. The 3rd ASEAN Para Games was held in Manila, Philippines from December 14, 2005 to December 20, 2005. The 4th ASEAN Para Games was held in Nakhon Ratchasima, Thailand from January 20, 2008 to January 26, 2008. Malaysia will be organizing the 5th ASEAN Para Games in Kuala Lumpur from August 15, to August 19, 2009.
This assignment gotta be my most memorable and satisfying assignment so far; 2 weeks ago, I had little idea how to shoot most of the sports that I had shot and really had only seen photos of the para games.
Today, I can say that comfortably that I had personally shot all the sports events involved except maybe chess and sailing.
During the period of shooting the 5th ASEAN Para Games , I have experienced the strength of the human spirit; of how people can achieve the seemingly impossible especially for those of us who are used to looking from our own able-bodied perspective.
- I have seen the blind play chess and yes, they all play better than I do.
- Those without 2 arms and a leg swim like a dolphin where ares some of us with all 4 limbs, can’t even swim.
- A man with no hands at all play table tennis or one who legs end at where our knees start, whose top of the head is an inch or two above the table tennis table net do a top-spin and then dive for the ball 3 feet away.
- A two-fingered sailor tying sailor knots that most of us with ten can’t manage at all.
- A team of 5 players, each with a leg missing, each able to do a spike with so much force that we can only dream about.
After seeing all that and a lot more, life is no longer the same for me and my guess is for everyone in my team this time.
As the official photography team for the games this time, it is up to me and my team to capture as much of these amazing feats of human strength and willpower and to immortalize them.
It was a simple and as usual, hot and wet afternoon in Kuala Lumpur. A couple of days ago, I had approached the Malaysian Paralympic Council to see if I can take a couple of shots for my portfolio at any paralympic type event. To my surprise, MPM have agreed to meet me immediately.
On that afternoon, armed with my usual meeting attire (yes, long-sleeved shirt, slacks, nice shoe, etc). The address was cryptic, some DBKL (Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur OR Kuala Lumpur City Hall for those who do not understand Malay) sports complex.
I was half-expecting a decent looking or even good looking modern office building (like most government departments) for the events department for the Malaysian Paralympic Council but instead I was greeted with an ageing, paint-peeling huge DBKL sports complex at Desa Selatan (I think).
The events department office for the MPM was nothing grand, a simple drab-looking wooden door with a small KL09 poster on the door led into the office.
Behind the door, the department stored various equipment, from banners to buntings to the occasional wheel-chair, table and chair. The office itself is up the stairs with simple (yes, not new) low cubicles with old tables and chairs in them, everyone seemed quite surprised to see me.
After all, it is not a usual sight to see a well-dressed Chinese professional photographer walking into such the place.
Yes, they needed help… and probably lots of it.
They had no funds to get proper photography for all their activities and the biggest event to date is about to come, KL’09 5th ASEAN Para Games with 11 sporting events across 11 venues and 11 participating countries; 1,200 athletes and NO photographer.
I guess I met them at just the right time and when I told them I would cover the entire event for them for free; all they could say was “thank you”.
Alas, one thing led to another… and now, the crunch time approaches.
I really hope my team of 10 photographers will not disappoint them, this is no small event; it is bad to disappoint anyone BUT it is a sin to disappoint the needy.
7th August 2008, Bukit Jalil – The KLAPGOC (Kuala Lumpur ASEAN Para Games Organizing Committee) together with Tun Jeanne Abdullah, the wife of the former Prime Minister of Malaysia, Tun Abdullah Badawi, was held its last meeting today at the National Stadium, Bukit Jalil.
You could almost feel the tension in the air as each individual committee member was asked to report about their progress… training, doping control, transportation…. as the final meeting continued, it was obvious that everyone is well-prepared for the show to get on the road next week and a great show it is going to be too.
1,200 athletes and officials will start to arrive on the 12th and depending on the sports that they are taking part, start their individual training sessions either on the 13th or latest by the 15th.
The games officially open on the 15th August 8pm at Stadium Putra, Bukit Jalil.
The Asean Para Games is considered the biggest multi-sports and multi-disability sporting event for the disabled in the Asean Regions. The Asean Para Games has been organized every two years, since the formation of the Asean Para Sports Federation (APSF) in 2001. KL’09, 5th Asean Para Games will be held in Kuala Lumpur from 15 to 19 August 2009. 10 APSF member nations plus Timor Leste will be participating in this games with approximately 1200 athletes and officials involved.
Whilst the opening ceremony is held on the 15th August 2009, the official competitions and preparations do start on the 13th August 2009 right up to the night of 19th August 2009; the night of the closing ceremony.
The 5th ASEAN Para Games consists of 11 sporting events : Athletics, Badminton, Power-Lifting, Sailing, Chess, Swimming, Table Tennis, Bowling, Sitting Volleyball, Wheelchair Basketball and Wheelchair Tennis; and spread across 11 venues.
For more information :
Steven Leong Photography appointed as the official photographer for KL’09 5th ASEAN Para Games
KL’09 5th ASEAN Para Games Part I – Introduction
KL’09 5th ASEAN Para Games Part II – Preparations & Practices
KL’09 5th ASEAN Para Games Part III – The Games
Tun Jeanne Abdullah officiates the Paralympic Park @ Bukit Jalil
Launch of the KL09 Torch Run Mission at KL Tower
KLAPGOC Final Meeting
Official KL’09 Website