Hong Kong: Hanoi on Thursday won the right to host the 2019 Asian Games, sparking celebrations among Vietnamese officials who said the decision would unlock millions of dollars in infrastructure investment.
The Vietnamese capital got the nod ahead of Indonesia’s second biggest city of Surabaya and Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) said after a meeting in the southern Chinese city of Macau.
“The majority of the votes are for the city of Hanoi to hold the 2019 Asian Games,” OCA president Sheikh Ahmad Al-Fahad Al-Sabah told a press conference.
“The leaders of the country, the sports groups of the country, we have trust that they will reach their commitment, and as a partner we will work very closely with them to bring the best Games ever in Asia.”
Vietnam Olympic Committee secretary general Hoang Vinh Giang expressed jubilation at the decision.
“We won! We won! We won! All our team is happy and pleased. All of Vietnam is happy for getting the games,” he said.
“We will be ready. We plan to host Games in Hanoi, in some provinces around Hanoi. Some Games will even be in Ho Chi Minh City—the football.”
The Vietnamese government estimates the 18th Asian Games will cost some $150 million and require the construction of new sporting stadiums and an athletes’ village.
“We will build new infrastructure. Not only for the Asian Games—the government has already approved a major development plan for Hanoi for the next 10 years,” Hoang said.
“It will be big investment, big budget, new highways, new tunnels and so on”.
Reactions on the streets of Hanoi were mixed.
“I didn’t even know that Vietnam had applied to host the Asian Games. We won? Maybe it will be good as it will help Vietnam to develop our sports more,” said Tran Van Hoang, 30, a motorbike taxi driver.
Sports fan Tong Dinh Truong, 41, said he feared that the money spent on the games would be a “huge waste”.
“There will be no positive impact at all on people’s lives and national economic development,” he added.
Hanoi was chosen by the 45 National Olympic Committees, which make up the OCA, the governing body for sports in Asia.
All the candidate cities had a “very good chance of winning”, OCA evaluation committee chairman Syed Arif Hasan, who visited the three candidate cities in October said.
Dubai pulled out at the last minute, saying it wanted to focus on future bids, to leave Surabaya as Hanoi’s only rival.
The Asian Games features regular Olympic sports like swimming and athletics, as well as disciplines that reflect Asia’s diverse cultures such as South East Asia’s sepaktakraw, South Asia’s kabaddi and East Asia’s wushu.
Indonesian sports minister Andi Mallarangeng said Surabaya’s bid had been boosted by Jakarta’s experience of hosting the South East Asian Games (SEA Games) last year.
“We have hosted successful multi-sports events and single sports events in recent years,” he said before the decision was announced.
His optimism came despite criticism of Indonesia’s organisation of the SEA Games, where two people were killed in a stampede at the soccer final between Indonesia and Malaysia.
The last major sporting event hosted by Vietnam was the SEA Games in 2003.
Guangzhou in southern China held the previous Asian Games in 2010, and the next Games will be held in Incheon, South Korea, in 2014.
The Games are usually held every four years but the organizers decided to delay the 18th Games by a year for scheduling reasons. AFP