What Were the Games of the New Emerging Forces (GANEFO)?

Commemorative stamps of the "1st Games of the New Emerging Forces."
Commemorative stamps of the "1st Games of the New Emerging Forces."

GANEFO were games established in the 1960s by Indonesia as an alternative multinational competitive sporting event to the Olympic Games. The Games of the New Emerging Forces is recognised as the biggest challenge yet to the domination of the International Olympic Committee in global sports.

Games Of The New Emerging Forces

The formation of the GANEFO games was triggered by the International Olympic Committee’s indefinite suspension of Indonesia. During the 1962 Asian Games which Indonesia hosted, Israel and Taiwan were denied entry cards leading to the suspension. Indonesia made an apparent show that politics and sports were intertwined in contrast to the view of the IOC which insisted on the separation of the two. President Sukarno of Indonesia spearheaded the organisation’s formation and branded the IOC “a tool of the imperialists and colonialists.” The organisation adopted the slogan “onward, no retreat” and it was formally acknowledged in 1963 by 36 countries.

Participating Nations

Since GANEFO had Asian origins, it was particularly embraced by the Asian countries of China, Japan, North Korea, Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Burma, Thailand, Sri Lanka (Ceylon), Iraq, the Philippines, Mongolia, Pakistan, and North Vietnam. Other countries were from Europe, Latin America, Middle East, and Africa. The African countries included Algeria, Guinea, Morocco, Nigeria, Mali, Senegal, Somalia, and Tunisia. The Latin American countries included Mexico, Uruguay, Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, and Cuba. European countries included Albania, Finland, Bulgaria, East Germany, Hungary, Belgium, Poland, Yugoslavia, Italy, Romania, and Soviet Union. Others included Palestine, United Arab Republic (now Syria and Egypt), Dominican Republic, and Saudi Arabia. Most of these countries, particularly those in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, were recently decolonized and they were labeled “the new emerging forces” by President Sukarno.

1st GANEFO Games

A preparatory conference held in April 1963 in Jakarta, Indonesia formulated a plan for the games. Jakarta was chosen as the host city, and the games took place for 13 days from November 10-22, 1963. A total of 51 nations sent athletes, officials, and staff to the games. The multi-sport event closely resembled the Olympics, complete with associated rituals and symbols. By the end of the games, China, Soviet Union, and Indonesia emerged as the top three nations with an estimated 68, 27, and 21 gold medals respectively. The games were financed heavily by China, which had previously withdrawn from the IOC due to the recognition of Taiwan.

2nd GANEFO Games

The 2nd GANEFO Games were scheduled to take place in Cairo, which was then part of the United Arab Republic in 1967. Cairo withdrew its bid based on political concerns as well as the lack of financial muscle in 1966. The games were however held in 1966 in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. 17 nations took part in these second games which were formally opened by Norodom Sihanouk. Only Asian countries participated except Guinea, and the games were dubbed the “1st Asian GANEFO.” China garnered approximately 108 gold medals.

Demise Of The Games

GANEFO was riddled with political tensions which ultimately facilitated its demise. The organisation failed to unite the participating nations in the mission to boycott the first world organised games. Most countries did not send their official athletic teams to the games to avoid sanctions by the IOC. The games also faced considerable opposition from the West


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