When you say badminton, you say Indonesia:Oktohari
Raja Sapta Oktohari, the muscular and youthful president of the Indonesian Olympic Committee, was finding it hard to contain his enthusiasm.
Badminton, he explained in an interview early this year, is more than a casual pastime in his country. It is part of the country's social fabric, a game played by families in backyards and cramped public spaces and by shop workers waiting for clients.
"When you say badminton, you say Indonesia," Oktohari declared. "That is how important it is."
So it was a blow to Indonesia's sporting culture when the Tokyo Olympics were postponed earlier this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Badminton is the only sport in which Indonesia has won an Olympic gold medal, a feat its players have achieved seven times. It is, in an Olympic year, the only sport that matters here.
The coronavirus has tested that commitment since The Times visited in February to document badminton's place in Indonesian life, but it hasn't dimmed it a bit. Slowly but surely, the game and its players are emerging from lockdown. For months, training centres and courts in Jakarta have been closed, but any easing of rules will revive familiar routines, even if coaching instructions will have to come from behind masks and face shields.
The Olympics, rescheduled for next year, are never far from the players' minds. The national squad recently held an internal tournament "so they could not feel bored and can measure the results of training programs" during the lockdown, one official said.