By ILONA ANDREW
KOTA KINABALU: Youth and Sports Minister Phoong Jin Zhe has called for more world-class and high-quality sports programmes to be held in Sabah as a means to boost the state’s tourism industry.
Speaking to the media on Sunday, Phoong said that high-quality sport events in the state would not only help inculcating healthy lifestyle practices among the people, but it could also impact the state’s economy as it helps promote Sabah to the world.
He said, such events will not only attract more tourists to come to Sabah, particularly Kota Kinabalu, but will also have positive impacts on the state’s sports tourism.
“I urge marathon organisers, particularly Borneo Marathon, to continue organising sport events across the state, not just in Kota Kinabalu.
“We also want to give runners and joggers more platforms to show their potential since marathon activities are more popular now, not just in Malaysia but the whole world.
“Besides, if we can produce more athletes from Sabah and provide them with more opportunities, they may as well be able to represent Sabah or Malaysia in international events,” said the minister after the Kota Kinabalu City Borneo Half Marathon prize-giving ceremony at Padang Merdeka, here.
According to Phoong, Sabah is blessed with a handful of marathon athlete with outstanding performances, and opportunities must be continuously created for them.
“I am doing a study on whether we can conduct world-class events in Sabah, like Le Tour de Langkawi. Although it was conducted on weekdays, the event was well-received,” he quipped.
The Kota Kinabalu City Borneo Half Marathon, held for the first time to celebrate Kota Kinabalu’s 20th anniversary, saw a total of 2,500 local and international participants. Initially, Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK) and its co-organiser Borneo Marathon targeted 3,000 participants for the event.
However, the numbers, said Phoong, were still very encouraging and it goes to show that the residents of Kota Kinabalu are indeed very keen in sport activities.
He reckoned many factors may have affected the numbers of participation, such as traffic congestion and the people’s concern over the Covid-19 outbreak.
“People try to avoid going to crowded places but we do not have any case of coronavirus (Covid-19) in Sabah just yet, but I don’t really think that this is the issue… I hope that people would still support this kind of events in the future,” he commented.
He further stressed that so far, no sport events in the state have ever been cancelled in fear of the outbreak, and assured that the popular International Borneo Marathon event which will be held this June will not be postponed unless there is an urgent need.
Also present during the event were Mayor Datuk Nordin Siman and Borneo Marathon Race Director Datuk Dr Heng Aik Cheng.