(ATR) Indonesian sport officials say the country cannot waste the opportunity of being awarded the 2018 Asian Games, having only hosted the flagship continental event once 56 years ago.
Asian Games 2018 signage in Jakarta (ATR)
“Hopefully there will be very good legacy because otherwise it will be difficult for Indonesia to build [on this] opportunity,” Gatot S Dewa Broto, Secretary of the Indonesian Ministry of Youth and Sports told Around the Rings.
“Otherwise we don’t know if in the next 20-30 years Indonesia will get an opportunity to host the Asian Games.”
Around 12,000 athletes are competing in 40 events in the cities of Jakarta and Palembang. The opening ceremony is August 18.
Surabaya, Indonesia originally bid to host the Games, but lost to Hanoi, Vietnam. The Vietnamese government pulled the plug on the bid citing financial difficulties, allowing Indonesia to be awarded the Games in 2014. Jakarta last hosted the Asian Games in 1962.
With less than four years to prepare, Indonesia relied on upgrading the country’s sport infrastructure in Jakarta and Palembang. Broto said that now the country can build its sport programs with venues that meet “worldwide standards”.
“We are aware that until recently the sport achievement of Indonesia, not in Asia, even just the Southeast Asian region, is not so good,” Broto said. “We would like to use this moment to actually grow the sport achievement of Indonesia.”
Broto said that Indonesia is currently behind countries like Malaysia and Thailand in year round, full-time sport training facilities. To understand the need to grow the sporting landscape in the country, a Ministry of Youth and Sports group took a trip to Barcelona in 2016 to inspect the city’s sport facilities. Broto said that the Sports Minister was “surprised” at how a small country like Spain could have such a large number of world class facilities, which could inspire a change of thinking in how Indonesia approaches its sporting infrastructure.
The ministry could revive a dormant project to build a year round training facility in Palembang. The project was commissioned in 2012, but was halted due to corruption in the sports ministry.
"That’s why this remains a project that has not been continued and hopefully after the Games it will be continued but not under the ministry of Youth and Sport, but under the ministry of public works and housing," Broto said.
Water polo is one of competitions already under way (Asian Games 2018)
To achieve a lasting result the Ministry of Youth and Sport was given a “presidential decree for facilitation of sport achievement” by President Joko Widodo. This allowed for funding to be given directly to the leaders of different sport programs in Indonesia, rather than the Ministry, in an effort to avoid issues of corruption, Broto said.
The ministry, while no longer acting as the middle man, has received an enlarged budget for 2018 rather than for 2019. The change will allow athletes to begin training camps for the 2019 Southeast Asian Games and Tokyo 2020 Olympics immediately after the Asian Games.
Broto said that the ministry will work to repeat performances in Jakarta and Palembang at the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines. At the 2017 edition in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Indonesia finished fifth in the medal table, which is viewed as a disappointing performance in the country.
Indonesia is targeting a top 10 finish in the medal table at the 2018 Asian Games after finishing in 17th place in 2014 in Incheon, South Korea. A target of 16 gold medals has been set for the 2018 Asian Games, as well.
After the Asian Games are completed, the Ministry of Public Works will assume responsibility of the 17 venues in the Jakarta Sports Center while the other venues in Jakarta will be maintained by the local government. All venues in Palembang will be maintained by the local government in South Sumatra.
Broto said that Indonesia will continue to bid for multi-sport events following the 2018 Asian Games in an effort to continue to raise the country’s sporting profile and hosting portfolio. Surabaya will host the 2021 Asian Youth Games, and Jakarta will host matches as part of the 2023 Basketball World Cup.
“We are sure the Asian Games will be very successful and after the Games we would like to directly evaluate the quality of the Games,” Broto said. “Based on the direction, not only from the chairman of the steering committee but also from the President Widodo, there will be open possibility for Indonesia to bid for other multi-sport events, probably the Olympics and even a World Cup. But for World Cup, Indonesia would like to partner with other countries like Singapore and Malaysia.”
Written and reported by Aaron Bauer in Jakarta.
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