Olympics: Row over rings blamed as Indonesian swimmers are left out to dry

JAKARTA (REUTERS) - An ongoing copyright row between Indonesian sports federations over the use of the Olympic rings symbol has been specified as the cause for the withdrawal of funding for local swimmers, according to their national coach.

"I don't want to comment on the current situation but yes, we're facing the same old problem about the budget," Albert Susanto told the Jakarta Globe on Thursday.

The International Olympic Committee (IOC) has threatened to ban Indonesia and strip them of the 2018 Asian Games hosting rights if the Indonesian National Sports Committee (Koni) continue to use the rings in its logo.

The IOC said only the Indonesian Olympic Committee (KOI) was allowed to use the iconic symbol. Talks between the Indonesian federations have so far failed to find a resolution.

With the SEA Games taking place in Singapore in June, Susanto said his athletes had been forced to wait on precious money which had delayed preparations for the region's biennial event.

"Our plan was to start with the general preparations in January. The government, as usual, gets the state budget ratified around that time," he said. "So the payment of athletes' salaries was delayed. They have just received their January salaries this month, though they have been training since January."

Susanto said the Indonesian Aquatic Association (PRSI), like most sporting bodies in the country, were wary of getting involved in the rings row between the two federations, which split a decade ago.

KOI now takes responsibility for the participation of Indonesia at major sporting events, such as the Asian Games and Olympics, while Koni heads the sporting associations in the fourth-largest country in the world by population.

Susanto said the PRSI had received short-term funding from its provincial offices around the country, which meant their athletes could go to Australia for training.

An application to the Golden Indonesian Programme, which looks after athletes competing overseas in multi-sports events in the complex system, found it was only willing to contribute funding for competitions and not training outside Indonesia, the report said.

"We all know it is not easy to do it on our own. Since we decided to send our athletes to practise in Australia, it will cost a fortune," Susanto said. "Each athlete requires A$3,000 (S$3,157) for monthly expenses and the competitions they'll participate in. So we really appreciate their support."