Suggesting Bali's inability to retain world class sporting events is the news that this year’s hosting of the Tournament of Champions from the Women’s Tennis Association this November will likely be the last time the “road to Bali” heads to the paradise island.
Held in Bali since 2001, through the thick and thin of two Bali bombings, the Bali tennis tournament has become the darling of the professional woman’s tour. Participants have showcased their talents both on and off the court, eagerly lending their time to a myriad of social events that brought invaluable attention to Bali’s many attractions and leisure-time activities.
The event also has a proven track-record of bringing well-healed tourists to the island, earning tax revenue from enhanced hotel and restaurant sales, and bringing a degree of worldwide recognition of incalculable promotional value to Bali.
The Indonesian Tennis Association has tried its best to keep the tournament of women champions in Bali, but the rising sponsorship cost, put at nearly US$ 2 million per year, is apparently beyond the financial reach of its current sponsor Commonwealth Bank. Efforts to find a companion sponsor for the Bank have come to naught with Garuda Indonesia – like almost all international airlines in these times of high fuel costs – pleading tight cash bars their participation.
Hopes that the Indonesian Ministry of Culture and Tourism would see continuing the tournament as an “easy call” given the high profile exposure and tax revenues the event generates, have also proven unfruitful, failing to garner the enthusiasm of those charged with promotingt national tourism.
Last year, the now-fading Bali Women’s Tournament of Champions ironically earned the honor of becoming a high profile “perfect escape.” The 2010 tournament earned that dubious distinction when infamous Indonesian taxation felon, Gayus Tambunan, escaped from prison in order to occupy a centercourt seat while wearing a wig and a disguise. A sharp-eyed photographer caught Gayus on film, exposing his obsessive love of tennis before he and his wig were returned to prison to serve out a 7-year sentence.
Bali’s loss of the prestigious tennis tournament will be Bulgaria’s gain as Sofia steps up to host the competition slot once held by the island beginning in 2012.
In the words of the well known rock ballad: “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”
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