Thu, 28 Aug 2003

Bali hosts successful world VB tournament

Murdani Usman, Contributor, Denpasar

Ignoring extreme heat as well as tight security, female beach volleyball athletes from around the world gathered at Petitenget beach, Kerobokan, Kuta, to take part in the FIVB World Tour Bali Open 2003.

Preparations for this world-scale tournament, which ran from Aug. 22 through Aug. 24, by the Indonesian Volley Ball Association (PBVSI), were meticulous.

Aiming at promoting Indonesia and Bali on the international volleyball stage, the association hoped the tournament would attract as many foreign participants as possible.

The event was hoped to attract people, especially foreign tourists, back to the island after the Oct. 12 bombing. But luck was not on the organizers' side, as a powerful bomb exploded again, this time at the JW Marriott Hotel in Jakarta.

Soon after, a number of participating countries, including the United States and Brazil -- both world top-seeded teams -- canceled their participation for security reasons. Still, the local audience was satisfied watching stunning performances from distinguished volleyball teams from Australia, China, Cuba, Canada and Eastern European countries, as well as from Indonesia.

For the nine participating Indonesian teams, the tournament was a valuable learning ground. Lack of experience at international events had forced local teams to yield quite easily to their foreign counterparts, including the Australian team of Clarke/Pottharst, who won a gold medal during the recent Olympic Games in Sydney.

The Indonesian teams, including Ni Putu Timmy Yudhani and Siti Nurjanah, have great potential, but so far they lack international exposure.

"Honestly, most foreign participants had a lot more experience and technical skills," chairperson of PBVSI Rita Soebowo admitted.

Bali-based player Komang Eva Artaningsih said she was happy to take part in the prestigious event.

"I hope we can participate in many more international events to improve our skills."

China's top team of Tian Jia and Wang Fei won the final after defeating another tough team from Cuba, Larrea Peraza and Fernandez Grasset, with a score of 21-17, 21-19. The Chinese team won US$22,000, while the Cuban team won $15,000 in prize money.

"This was our first trip to Indonesia. We were very impressed by the beauty of Bali and the kindness of its people," Tian Jia said.

"We are very happy to be here although we came in only as runners-up. The tournament went smoothly. Everything was under control despite the event being overshadowed by the threat of terrorism," said Peraza.

For Bali at least, the success of the international sports tournament at least helped to improve the shattered image of the island in the eyes of the rest of the world.