There was plenty of stuff that went on at the Asian Games that couldn't be documented as a story. Some of it fun, others less so, with administrative ineptitude a running theme of proceedings.
August 17: Unhappy hunting ground
Lin Dan may be a God of Badminton anywhere else, but he's made to feel decidedly mortal in Indonesia, where he's never won a title. Indonesia now seems to rub it in at the Asian Games, where the Chinese great takes the bus like the rest of us plebs.
He might be a two time Olympic gold medalist and a legend of the sport but at the Asian Games, Lin Dan catches the bus with the rest of us mortals. pic.twitter.com/QCWD41HbFs
- jonathan selvaraj (@jon_selvaraj) August 18, 2018
While Super Dan wins gold as part of the Chinese team at the Games, he won't even get his name on the singles draw with Shi Yuqi and Chen Long named as China's representatives.
August 18: Sushil lost in translation
There are many things common in the language of Bahasa and Hindi. The word for 'Thank You' takes a lot of people by surprise though. The first word of "Terima Kasih" implies something completely different in North India. Wrestler Sushil Kumar is taken aback when hears it. "Bhaisab India me terima bologe to maar khaoge (If you say 'terima' in India to someone, you are going to get a beating)," is his blunt assessment.
August 19: 'Nobody's dog'
Bajrang Punia saves face for India on the opening day with only the country's second gold medal in wrestling this millennium. Yet the win is marred by the fact that Bajrang's coach feels left out in the celebrations. "I'm nobody's kutta (dog)" yells out Emzario Bentinidis, who has been coaching Punia for the last six months. Bentinidis is upset for what he feels is the fact that he is being crowded out of victory pictures by those who had little to do with Bajrang's win. It's not going to be the last time it occurs.
August 20: No win no cry
Japan's hosting the 2020 Olympics so you assume they are going to use the Asian Games as a demonstration of intent. It's not a good start for them though in the sport they most dominate -- women's wrestling. They go without a single gold medal on the opening day of the women's wrestling events in Jakarta. The defeats hurt, reigning Olympic champion Risako Kawai's tears on her first defeat in 3 years -- in the semifinals here -- show just how much.
August 21: Near miss in Jakarta, none in Palembang
I have a flight to Palembang at 5:45 AM. As Murphy predicts, my alarm doesn't ring and I'm up at 4:15 AM. I'm 15 km from the airport. If this was back in New Delhi, I would be looking at making another booking. The infamous Jakarta traffic has still not clogged this early in the morning and I'm flying to Palembang with a few minutes to spare. While I nearly miss my flight, Indian shooters are far more accurate on the range.
August 22: Superhero movie Wonder Ramen
With its myriad cultures, Indonesia has some great cuisine. All the more of a pity that any food is next to impossible to find in Jakabaring Sports City in Palembang. The complex is massive, and the food court is a long distance from the shooting range where most medals are won. And so, Cuppo Noodles that just need hot water to be added becomes my staple diet. I go through 17 large cups in four days in Palembang, which has to be some sort of record for salt intake.
August 23: Do they serve beer in dope control?
As Indian medal winners keep getting younger and younger, I learn an unusual problem this leads to. After 15-year-old Shardul Vihan wins a double trap silver, he's stuck in dope control for an inordinately long time. "You know sometimes, you give beer to the athlete so that they can piss faster," suggests an Indian official. "Of course it's probably not right to give beer to a 15-year old," he concludes.
August 24: More angry coaches
Another Indian gold medal is marred by coaching trouble. This time it's the rowers who have to deal with it. Coach Nicolae Gioga says he has been fired. He doesn't show up to greet the winners. Not all the players know his status. Dushyant Singh, who opens India account with a hard fought bronze gets an earful when he shows his medal to Gioga.
What does it take to win a medal at the Asian Games? Dushyant Singh stuck it out through high BP to win India's first bronze in rowing. He threw up at the prize ceremony and had to be stretchered out afterwords. pic.twitter.com/0zI3ZntcUg
- jonathan selvaraj (@jon_selvaraj) August 24, 2018
It's an ugly finish to a day that began so promisingly.
August 25: Facebook generation
These Asian Games are incredibly relaxed. There's little of the overbearing security that you hear is commonplace at other events of this magnitude. Commercial broadcast deals are taken very seriously though.
Triple Jumper Arpinder Singh is doing a Facebook live of Roommate Tejinder Pal Toor's shot put competition. Throw 1 is 19.96m and Arpinder's confidently declared gold for the giant thrower. pic.twitter.com/YJdJIU4c6H
- jonathan selvaraj (@jon_selvaraj) August 25, 2018
So when officials find out that Indian triple jumper Arpinder Singh has been live streaming his roommate Tajinderpal Singh Toor's shot put event, they come down hard and make sure the giant shot putter doesn't return the favour for the latter's event.
August 26: The medal that wasn't
It's probably the most awkward moment of the Games for me. G Lakshmanan has just won what he thinks is a bronze in the men's 5000m race. He is in the press room, speaking about his difficult childhood and the struggles he's had to go through to win his first Asiad medal. In the middle of an interview though, news breaks that he's been disqualified. It's a shattering moment. Lakshmanan rushes out to figure what's happened but it's too late. He will later finish out of the podium in the men's 10000m too.
August 27: A namesake becomes a symbol
Istora is one of the iconic badminton venues in the world. It's famous for willing on Indonesians to titles, and the Asian Games was no different, where they inspired World No. 15 Jonatan Christie to an Asian Games gold. Christie is a bit of a heartthrob owing to his dashing good looks and it's something else to see an entire stadium with hijab-clad women swooning over him and screaming his name as he took of his shirt to reveal a bare torso following his semifinal win.
August 28: Another bronze that isn't
There's usually a lag time between a live event and the time it's broadcast on TV. Since I'm used to seeing sports on TV, I'm aware that news may break on twitter - based on information seen live, before it's had a chance to make it onto TV. So when I see a news break by the AFI's handle that Sanjivani Jadhav has won bronze in the women's 5000m, it takes time to process the fact that I'm seeing the race live and not on TV and that the AFI's tweet is definitely premature.
August 29: A reversal of fortunes - at eSports
Journalists from different countries use each other as prospective voices in their reports. I had used a Chinese journalist's familiarity with the movie Dangal for a story early in the Games. Now while going through the Weibo profile of e-gamer Uzi, my unfamiliarity with Mandarin was a source of huge interest and humor for Chinese journalists. Apparently google translate, translated incredibly inaccurately.
August 30: A Chinese education
On the final day of athletics, India have amongst their busiest day on the medal charts, adding two gold medals, one silver and one bronze.
- jonathan selvaraj (@jon_selvaraj) August 31, 2018
While struggling to keep track of the cavalcade of Indian medal winners, I sort of understand what Chinese journalists must go through.
August 31: The sea word
The press room at the Ancol sailing venue that is a dozen or so feet from the waters of Jakarta Bay has incredible views. Yet it's next to impossible to figure out what the sailors in their boats far from shore are up to. There are no spectators out there (with the exception of an anchored sailboat), no referee, and the Games can't afford a video camera that is stabilized in the turbulent waves. There's no real way to tell what happens out on the blue. You could get away with a lot of stuff there, cheating too maybe.
September 1: The many fathers of success
Amit Panghal's medal is a godsend for Indian boxing, which has all of one bronze otherwise. Yet following the medal there's the same jostling for position by officials. The first five minutes of Panghal's 8-minute long press conference are taken up by officials who speak of all the improvements they have brought to the sport. They occupy all the spots on the table, leaving boxing coach Santiago Nieva to pull up a chair and sit in the corner.
September 2: Doll troubles
The Games are done, but a Boneka (doll) -- Kaka, the Sumatran rhino mascot -- is still to be acquired. Note to self for any future Games: purchase any stuffed animals for nieces and nephews before the Games begin because they are the first things to go out of stock. It takes me an hour of guilt tripping the official souvenir store manager before he manages to find a hidden Boneka for me.