10/01/2021, 13.02
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Papua ready to host the National Sports Festival

by Mathias Hariyadi

At least 6,400 athletes will compete in 37 sports. Local authorities fear a rise in infections and more separatist attacks. President Widodo will kick off the event tomorrow. Indonesia’s easternmost province is set to receive special funds to develop local services.

Jayapura (AsiaNews) – Indonesia’s National Sports Festival (PON[*]) will be held in the city of Jayapura, capital of the Indonesian province of Papua.

Starting tomorrow until 15 October, 6,400 athletes from cross the country will compete in 37 sporting events, assisted by some 3,500 officials and 9,000 support staff.

The presence of so many people worries local authorities. Only half of the population in the districts hosting the competitions has been vaccinated, this according to Indonesia’s National Board for Disaster Management (BNPB[†]).

Nationwide, just over 18 per cent of the population has been fully vaccinated.

Yesterday the country reported 1,690 new SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus) cases, but many fear that Papua's health system, more deficient than that of other provinces, may not be able to cope with a new rise in infections in the coming weeks.

Security at the festival is also another source of concern for the authorities. Violence has escalated in Papua over the last month.

Several days ago, police clashed with a separatist group, which the Indonesian government considers an armed criminal gang (KKB[‡]).

In Kiwirok, a health worker and several police officers died in an ambush.

However, Marshal Hadi Tjahjanto and General Listyo Sigit have reassured the population, saying that the police will be present to ensure the security of all participants.

President Joko "Jokowi" Widodo, who will open the event, said he was eager to see the athletes compete and hopes that athletes from Papua will make it to the podium.

Recently, the People's Representative Council (DPR[§]) approved a new law for Papua’s autonomy and more funding over the next 20 years in order to develop its public services.

The sporting competitions will also take place in other locations in Papua, and in November, the National Paralympic Games will be held.

PON takes place every four years, but last year's edition was postponed due to the pandemic.

[*] Pekan Olahraga Nasional.

[†] Badan Nasional Penanggulangan Bencana.

[‡] Kelompok kriminal Bersenjata.

[§] Dewan Perwakilan Rakyat.

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