Bhutan’s performance at the ongoing 18th edition of the Asian Games in Indonesia followed a similar outcome of the past.

The athletes will return home on September 3 without a medal after being knocked out in all four participating disciplines of the competition.

The chef de mission for the Bhutanese contingent, Nim Dorji, said that despite a notable improvement among the athletes in comparison to the South Asian Games (SAG) in 2016, Bhutanese athletes failed to perform in Indonesia.

Except for golf, the three federations – archery, boxing and taekwondo were selected for the Games based on their performance at the SAG.

The three disciplines bagged 16 medals, the highest for team Bhutan in a multi-sports international competition then.

“The Asian Games is a big competition with some of the top athletes in the world competing,” said Nim Dorji. “While we take a step further on the improvement, there are others who take three of those steps. This is why we are not able to match up to their level.”

He said the country today do not have professional athletes who pursue sports as a career. Most national players are school and college students.

“We don’t have athletes making a living through sports in our country. That is why sports is not given importance which in turn restricts the growth of player and athletes to perform competently in international competitions,” said Nim Dorji.

In Bhutan, sports is played more as a hobby than as a profession. Except for few federations, the country does not have a standing national team who is engaged throughout the year practicing and training.

Political parties in their manifestos have promised to change this.

Bhutan Kuen-Nyam Party (BKP) pledges to invest in sports infrastructure and technology across all dzongkhags and promote and develop sports both traditional and modern by allocating required funds and planning attractive career path for sportspersons.

Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT) pledges to build a world-class high altitude sports and training centre in Thimphu. It also promises that all schools will have games and sports instructor.

Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT), in its manifesto, claims that to ensure productive employment for all, the party will invest and promote games and sports as viable long-term career options. It promises to address social issues by establishing recreation facilities for games and sports.

According to the People’s Democratic Party’s (PDP) manifesto, the party pledges to encourage youth to pursue sports as a career alternative by incentivising careers in sports.PDP pledges to establish three sports academies to promote sports and promote Bhutan as a unique destination for adventure sports.

Most of the sports pledges revolved around building more sports facilities. While some of the parties mentioned of creating a career-path for athletes, no details were provided.

Nim Dorji said that besides having the infrastructures and facilities to train the athletes, having qualified and experienced coaches is crucial for sports development.

He said that most of the foreign coaches in Bhutan are either volunteers or paid by international organisations to support Bhutanese athletes for a limited period of time. “We need more elite coaches on a fulltime basis. The good athlete-coach relation is crucial for the improvement of sports.”

He said respective federations need to recommend potential coaches who could help train the athletes. “We at BOC encourage the federation to have international coaches. Once the federations submit their recommendations, BOC facilitates in getting the coaches.”

The Bhutan Olympic Committee (BOC) supports sports development through mobilisation of government budget to respective sports federations. The budget is used to conduct activities including training of national players throughout the year.

Younten Tshedup | Jakarta