Athletes burn carpets, flood dorms at two major Games last year

Malaysian athletes in a march past during the closing ceremony of the Incheon Asian Games last year.

KUALA LUMPUR: They were meant to be ambassadors of sports for the country. Instead, they've brought shame to the nation.

Some of the athletes to the last two multi-sport Games - Commonwealth and Asian - last year have been fined a total of almost RM150,000 (S$55,600) for smoking and causing damage to property, including burnt carpets and flooding in the dorms.

What is shocking is that this kind of incidents have happened before, though not as serious as at these two Games.

In Glasgow, the Malaysians were fined a total of RM3,640. In Incheon, it was a whopping RM142,478.

This has triggered the alarm bells to ring in the Olympic Council of Malaysia (OCM), who have had enough of bailing out the culprits.

They've decided to let the sports associations pay the fines instead. Sepak takraw was the biggest culprit in Incheon as they were fined a total of RM86,756. The other sports fined in the Asiad include bowling, sailing and rugby.

OCM secretary general Datuk Sieh Kok Chi confirmed that the amount of fine imposed at the Incheon Games "is the highest so far".

"The discipline among our athletes is getting from bad to worse. I believe that there is an urgent need to check this ... otherwise it'll escalate," he said.

"The OCM board have already been briefed about the fines and they've decided that the sports concerned will have to fork out the payment.

"The OCM cannot afford to pay this kind of money. We've sent letters to the associations on the matter."

Smoking has been a major issue at almost every Games. And it was no different at these two multi-sport events.

At the Glasgow Games last July, five athletes were fined £50 each (S$103) for smoking in a restricted area.

The Malaysian contingent was also fined £250 after an athlete set the dorm carpet on fire. She was said to have tried to cook in the dorm.

The Malaysians were also fined a further £150 for flooding a dorm.

But what really irked Kok Chi is the exorbitant bill for the Asian Games.

"US$40,000 (S$52,800))! Smoking was again the major issue ... damage to property was the other. In some cases, the damage was minimal but the host made a big issue and wanted us to pay for the whole thing. So we had no choice but to pay up," said Kok Chi.

Asian Games chef de mission Datuk Danyal Balagopal Abdullah claimed that the host, South Korea, had exaggerated the damages incurred.

"Some of it is really petty. Even the cigarette stain was a problem. I agree that our athletes should not have done it as they had been briefed and warned of the consequences. Despite the hefty fine, I don't think indiscipline in Incheon is a big issue," he said.

Petty or not, the athletes' actions have tarnished the country's image.