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Asian Games 2018

Crazy Rich Asians who win bronze in Asian Games bridge – meet Indonesia’s richest man and oldest athlete Bambang Hartono

The 78-year-old bridge fanatic describes it as ‘athletics of the mind’ and was instrumental in having the game included in the 2018 Asian Games

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 28 August, 2018, 8:56am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 28 August, 2018, 10:01pm

He is the richest man in Indonesia, he is one of the oldest athletes in the Asian Games and now he is a bronze medal winner.

Bridge player Bambang Hartono, who has a net worth of US$11.6 billion according to Forbes, missed out on a 1.5 billion Indonesian (HK$806,000) rupiah payout had he won gold – not that he needs it. But he was happy to take the bronze in the debut Asian Games sport.

The 78-year-old Indonesian-Chinese joined forces with Bert Toar Polii, 64, Frangky Karwur, 52, Jemmy Bojoh, 47, Conny Sumampauw, 43, and Rury Andhani, 34 to capture third place behind Singapore and Hong Kong in the bridge supermixed event in Jakarta.

“If I managed to win gold, I would have contributed it to the government’s bonus to the athlete’s training programme,” Hartono told local media.

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The Indonesian government is not only giving cash prizes to the country’s gold medallists but also providing them the opportunity to work in government jobs such as the police and military, which offers housing and other perks.

Most of the Indonesian athletes come from poor backgrounds. Last month, Lalu Muhammad Zohri won the 100 metres sprint at the under-20 world championships and President Jokowi ordered that his bamboo home be renovated into a modern house.

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Hartono’s house, though, needs no renovation. As the joint owner of Indonesia’s biggest cigarette producer Djarum and the world’s 75th richest man, Hartono and his co-owner brother Budi can afford some of the best accommodation in the world.

He also owns more than 25 per cent of listed company Bank Central Asia, which had a market capitalisation of US$40.2 billion as of June this year.

Djarum, which produces the famous clove cigarettes that give off a distinctive aroma, was founded by Hartono’s father Oei Wie Gwan – who bought a bankrupt Indonesian cigarette company in 1950, renamed it and turned it into a national institution.

Hartono, who describes bridge as “athletics of the mind”, said he had been playing the game since he was six years old and it was his influence that convinced Asian Games organisers to include it in the 2018 roster.

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“I saw my uncles playing bridge. I got interested because the game had millions of card variations,” he said. “From then on I started to like and learn bridge.”

He has taken part in countless local and international events. In 2012, he and his team won a bronze at the national sports week domestic competition. At international level, his team won a silver at the world championship for the senior bowl.

“I experienced a lot of failures playing bridge, but I never forget my motto of never giving up. So I don’t give up. I am a fighter,” he said.

Hartono said the secret to his success in life and bridge is discipline and reading. He also intends to keep playing bridge for as long as he can.

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“If you can’t be disciplined, don’t expect to be a champion,” he said. “The number one thing is discipline.

“I used to read five books in one week, at least 200 pages a day. For three hours I would read. You can read anything. It can be about economics, badminton, bridge or anything.

“As for being an athlete, I’ll do it for as long as possible.”