Mon, 22 May 2000

Vendors running rings around Senayan joggers

JAKARTA (JP): For many years, the Senayan sports complex in Central Jakarta has been a favorite site for Jakarta residents from all walks of life and ages to jog and take part in morning exercises, particularly on weekends.

Nowadays, the morning view at the vast complex has drastically changed as more and more people come to the site for different reasons.

No, this story is not about businessman Bayu Maruto, a former member of the elite presidential guard, who daringly introduced himself to widow actress Chintami Atmanagara, while jogging at the Senayan complex sometime in late 1998. The two became officially engaged few days ago.

These days, the complex is always swarmed by hundreds of street traders selling so many kinds of food, drinks and merchandise, ranging from shoes, diapers, wristwatches, shirts, used imported garments, toys, kitchen knives and wigs.

On the other site of the complex, one can see a number people selling various items, such as car accessories and household equipment, from their cars.

The new trend at the site, according to regular joggers, began with the onset of the economic crisis which badly hit the country in mid-1997.

Before, in the 1980s, for example, sports enthusiasts only saw a few dozen food vendors, especially those selling chicken porridge.

But traders are traders. For them, the regular presence of thousands of people at the complex is a big market for their businesses.

And they are not wrong. Joggers, who usually come to the site with their spouses and children, always purchase the goods on display on mats at the edge of the "jogging track", the street that encircles the football stadium.

Others spend their time engaged in a kind of window shopping.

Ulfi said she and all her family members were happy with the traders' presence.

"I can shop for my daily needs, including vegetables, here. I also don't need to prepare breakfast during weekends as various kinds of foods can be found here," she said.

"It is more practical, isn't it?" said the employee of a garment company and mother of two boys.

But complaints from some other joggers about the crowds of traders, which have been mushrooming from day to day, are on the rise. They say their presence hinders sports activities.

"Conditions were better two years ago when the number of traders was still tolerable, but now -- especially on Sundays -- it has turned into a traditional market," complained entrepreneur Prihartomo.

The traders sometimes take up part of the track, leaving limited space for the joggers.

But many regular joggers at Senayan admitted that the Bayu- Chintami case is something natural.

"I come here to take part in sports and perhaps I too will meet my future wife here," said Brahma, an employee of an accountancy firm in Central Jakarta.

Brahma, who was there with scores of colleagues, said that one of his relatives met his girlfriend in Senayan, although their relationship only lasted for six months.

Rini, a clothing trader at the complex since last year, said she has witnessed many times how the younger joggers became acquainted with each other during the morning jogging.

"They mostly make use of the breakfast time," she said. (ind)