JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesia has the will and the funds to stage the 2019 Asian Games, a government minister confirmed Sunday as regional organizers scrambled for a host to replace Vietnam.
The 2019 event was due to be staged in Hanoi but the Vietnamese government last week announced it would withdraw as host, citing a lack of money and the potential damage to its reputation if the event — second only to the Summer Olympics in terms of the number of athletes competing — was a flop.
Indonesia, with the largest economy in Southeast Asia, was runnerup in the initial bidding process for the games.
"We have been waiting for this opportunity for decades and don't want to wait for another decade," Indonesia's youth and sport minister Roy Suryo told The Associated Press late Sunday. "Indonesia is ready and there will be no problem with funds."
Suryo said the games could be held in Surabaya, the country's second largest city.
But in a measure of the potential problems ahead, Indonesia Olympic Committee chairwoman Rita Subowo questioned whether the government had enough time to properly prepare.
"The government should realize that Surabaya will only be ready to host the Youth Games in 2021, not in 2019," Subowo said
She also noted that a new government would be elected later this year that might not agree to pay for the games, injecting more uncertainty into the bid.
The cost of hosting the event depends on how much infrastructure needs to be built or upgraded.
Vietnam would have needed to spend at least $500 million, economists and experts have said.
Subowo said an Olympic Council of Asia team would visit Indonesia early next month to assess its suitability to host the games.
Indonesia staged the Southeast Asia Games in 2011 and the Islamic Solidarity Games last year, both in Palembang, a city on Sumatra island.
Indonesia hosted the Asian Games in 1962 in the capital, Jakarta.