22 February - Public Discussion: Ganefo – Politics and sport in the history of Indonesia
The Games of the New Emerging Forces (GANEFO) were a visible sporting manifestation of this project, an explicit attempt to link sport to the politics of anti-imperialism, anti-colonialism, and the emergence of the Third World. Approximately 3000 athletes from nearly 50 nations gathered in Jakarta in November 1963 for a multi-sport event that featured 20 sports as well as cultural festivities. Athletes hailed primarily from recently decolonized countries in Asia and Africa, which were labelled the “new emerging forces” by Indonesian President Sukarno.
Few analyses of GANEFO outside of those that highlight its Indonesian origins have considered whether the event achieved its aim of uniting the non-aligned world through sport. When considering GANEFO as an international event, the focus instead is on China’s financial support of the event and American opposition to it – effectively framing a Third World event firmly within the Cold War priorities of the First and Second Worlds.
The event, however, can also be understood within the Indonesian leader’s anti-colonial, nationalist, and Third World-ist positions as well as his efforts to promote a Java-centric sense of Indonesian identity in the face of ethnic and regional diversity. Moreover, international development was prominent in post-colonial Indonesia and the influence of First and Second World powers lent a development subtext to GANEFO. Sukarno advocated for an amicable resolution to the Sino-Soviet split in the Second World to advance Indonesia’s position in this regard and accepted assistance from both sides of the Cold War divide, which was reflected during GANEFO. International athletes and guests, financed by China, arrived in Jakarta and travelled along a highway paid for by the United States, stayed in the International Hotel constructed by Japanese investment, and competed or spectated at the massive Bung Karno sports complex originally built by the Soviet Union for the IVth Asian Games in 1962.