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Indonesia confident it will host next Asian Games
  • | AP | September 12, 2014 10:13 PM

Indonesian officials are confident they will return from the Asian Games in South Korea with confirmation that their country will host the next edition, and are pitching a two-city event that they'd like to stage a year ahead of schedule.
In this Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014 photo, a man runs around Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia. Indonesian officials are confident they will return from the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, with confirmation that their country will host the next edition of the continental event, pitching a two-city event that could be staged a year ahead of schedule. Vietnam initially was awarded the rights to stage the Asian Games in 2019, but backed out in April citing a lack of funds. Indonesia, Southeast Asia’s largest nation and home to a fast-growing economy, has since emerged as the strongest candidate to host the event. (AP Photo/Achmad Ibrahim)

In this Thursday, Sept. 11, 2014 photo, a man runs around Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta, Indonesia.
Vietnam initially was awarded the rights to stage the Asian Games in 2019, but backed out in April citing a lack of funds.

Indonesia, Southeast Asia's largest nation and home to a fast-growing economy, has since emerged as the strongest candidate to host the event.

"Hopefully, I will bring home not only medals from Incheon, but also a decree stating that Indonesia is the host of the Asian Games," said Agum Gumelar, a former army general who is leading Indonesia's contingent to the South Korean city of Incheon, where the 2014 games start next week. "I dare to say that I'm 90 percent certain that Indonesia will be the host."

President-elect Joko Widodo said last month he was "99 percent" certain Indonesia would host the event.

The Olympic Council of Asia had planned a five-year break after Incheon to stop the games falling in the same cycle as the Winter Olympics and the soccer World Cup. However, Indonesia's Olympic committee president Rita Subowo said it seemed likely that the OCA would accept Indonesia's request to bring the event forward by a year to avoid a clash with the country's presidential elections in 2019.

Indonesia suffers from chronic infrastructure problems including notoriously bad traffic in the capital and elsewhere, along with poor air quality, shoddy public service and rampant corruption. More than half of the population lives on less than $2 dollars a day, but athletes and others can expect a friendly welcome.

Last month Wei Jizhong, the honorary vice-president of the OCA, visited Jakarta to assess the country's readiness to host the event.

Widodo told journalists that Wie had said Jakarta, home to some 19 million people, would make a suitable host city.

"It is an honor as a nation to be able to hold such a prestigious sport event," said Widodo, widely known by his nickname Jokowi, who will take office Oct. 20. "It will be an opportunity not only to promote Indonesia but also to show the world that we have strength and capacity in all aspects, and I believe we can do that. It is not just about sports, but also about pride."

Subowo said the country could rely on the support of Southeast Asian nations during the decision process, which is due to take place on Sept. 20 during the games in South Korea. It is unclear whether any other country remains in the bidding process.

The Indonesian bid involves events being staged in the town of Palembang in southern Sumatra.

That city hosted the 2011 Southeast Asian Games and the Islamic Solidarity Games, which drew competitors from 57 countries earlier this year.

Jakarta is building a 50,000 seat stadium close to its northern coast and will need to refurbish other venues. But construction in Palembang for the 2011 Southeast Asian games should ensure the country doesn't need to build any more large-scale sports venues, greatly reducing the cost of staging the games.

The 2011 SEA Games were overshadowed in part by corruption connected to the building of the venues. Two members of the ruling party of outgoing President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono are serving prison terms for accepting large kickbacks in connection with construction of a housing complex for athletes at the games.

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