Never won a medal at Asian Games, but still happy: Bhutan

Vastavam web: The Himalayan Kingdom of Bhutan has never won a medal of any kind at the Asian Games, much less the Olympics. The country’s fame, instead, comes from its billing as one of the happiest places on earth. In fact, the government promotes a concept it terms “Gross National Happiness” as a way to measure success. “People at home are not unhappy we have not won,” Younten Tshedup, a reporter for the national newspaper Kuensel, told the Associated Press at the Asian Games.

By comparison, Bhutan’s giant neighbour China has won more than 3,000 medals about 1,500 gold in Asian Games competitions. “We are hoping to change it this time,” Younten added. Bhutan, with a population of only 750,000, has 24 athletes entered in sports including archery, taekwondo, boxing and believe it or not golf. Soccer and cricket are also popular in Bhutan, but competition is amateur. Archery has many participants, but the disciplines practiced at home are different than those on the Asian Games and Olympic sports programs.

“We’d be happy with any medal,” Nim Dorji, the head of the delegation, told The AP. Several athletes in taekwondo could break through. They talked up their chances but were realistic, too on Monday while seated around a table eating lunch and decked out in their distinctive red and yellow uniforms with the dragon crest on the chest. Part of the challenge has been Bhutan’s isolation, trapped between China and India in the Himalayas. It has just recently begun to open up with television and social media pushing quick change, and the natural beauty also is a lure that attracts outsiders.

Nim, the head of the delegation, said the Bhutan government was getting more involved and offering incentives. “We are a small country known for our culture and traditions,” taekwondo athlete Kinzang Choden said. Bhutan is not alone in Asia in its medal struggles. East Timor, Indonesia’s neighbor on the eastern border, is also yet to win a medal at the Asian Games, a quadrennial event that has attracted more than 11,000 athletes from 45 countries and territories competing in 40 sports. The website for the Olympic Council of Asia the governing body of regional sports shows six other nations that have won medals, but never a gold medal: Afghanistan, Brunei, Laos, Nepal, Palestine, and Yemen.