Sports diplomacy brings fun, unity to ASEAN

By: Yoav Cerralbo, The Korea Herald, 1 September 2008

Just like the 2008 Summer Olympics, the Seoul ASEAN Friendly Games are in the books but with less controversy and possibly more fun

To celebrate the Association of Southeast Asian Nations 41st anniversary, embassies from member nations in Seoul, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the soon-to-be-launched ASEAN-Korea Center got together for a weekend of friendly competitive amusement that included tennis, badminton, bowling and table tennis.

"You don't have to look far to get the sense of excitement of the Olympic Games in Beijing, we have our own, smaller version right here in Seoul with the ASEAN family," said Lao Ambassador Soukthavone Keola, the current ASEAN Committee in Seoul chairman.

On Aug. 24, the first day of the competition and the second to last day of the Beijing Olympics, diplomats from ASEAN nations and Korea competed in bowling and badminton matches.

It was stiff competition as everyone showed their expertise in the events.

In the bowling tournament Agus Hariyanto, Usman Marbun, Achmad Fauzan and Ria Marbun from the Indonesian team took home the winning trophy.

The first runner-up trophy went to the previous two-time winning team of the Philippines made up of Ramon Tirona, Cyrus Paradela, Dennis Galiza and Jack Corpuz.

Top scorers, both from the Indonesian Embassy, was Usman Marbun winning the men's prize and Ria Marbun bringing home the women's trophy.

In the badminton tournament, held at the Seoul Foreign School's gymnasium in the Seodaemun district, Team Laos made up of Bounthong Chanthapaseuth and Bounthanth Sinavongphone took home the doubles championship.

The runner-up trophy was awarded to Efran Gunawan and Ulin Nuha from Indonesia.

The next day the heat was turned up due to not only the weather but also the competition.

Held at the Indonesian Embassy in Yeouido, Vietnam's Vu Duc Tan and Cao Minh Chau won the tennis doubles event with Deni Sugandi and Anita Ristiyanto from Indonesia winning the runners-up trophy.

One of the highlights of the table tennis matches was watching Cambodian Ambassador Lim Samkol dominate the men's single competition.

Runner-up for the table tennis tournament came from Indonesia's Michael Min.

In the men's doubles in table tennis, Indonesia's Charge d'Affaires Foster Gultom and teammate Efran Gunawan brought home the glory with Cambodia's Meng Eang and Manyong Shin winning the runners-up trophy.

Indonesia's dominance in the ASEAN Friendly Games continued in the women's double table tennis matches with Gitasari R. Widowati and Anita Ristiyanto winning the gold while the team made up of Datin Siti Aishah Abdullah from Brunei and the Korea-ASEAN Center's Kim Su-youn won the runners-up trophy.

"In the spirit of sports diplomacy, we held these games not just for our health and recreation but for greater understanding and camaraderie," said Keola.