EVA THIO WRITES – President Joko Widodo, whose approval rating has reached a remarkable 68 percent, is looking to cement his reelection with a successful hosting of the Asia Games next year. But is the country and its aging sports infrastructure up to the task?
Jakarta and Palembang will host around 10,000 athletes competing in 39 sports from 45 countries in the large event known as the Asian Games. The Asian Games begin on August 18, and run through September 2, 2018 in the Gelora Bung Karno Main Stadium. The last time Jakarta hosted the Asian Games was in 1962.
Many argue that hosting the event in Indonesia will bring advantages to the country, such as showing Indonesia’s status as one of the world’s emerging economies and leading in sporting skills.
55-year-old Gelora Bung Karno stadium has hosted events such as football and basketball games in the past, but never an event as big as the Asian Games. Also, in 2014, Vietnam withdrew from being the Asian Games’ host due to financial constraints—meaning that Indonesia had only had four years, instead of six years to prepare for the event.
When the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) went to Indonesia in March, they were concerned about the venue’s lack of coordination, lighting and sound systems. Also, the mass rapid transit (MRT) is expected to be in construction until 2019, which might create major traffic problems in the country. In response, the country is investing $2.27 billion on associated development projects.
Widodo is banking on the Asian Games’ success to secure a re-election in 2019. If the president makes a good impression on the global community, it will be possible for the President to win re-election in the 2019 Presidential Election.
Initially, the event was scheduled for 2019, but Jakarta requested the OCA to reschedule it to 2018, in light of the 2019 Presidential Election. Last August, Indonesia launched the one-year countdown for the Asian Games at the national monument, Monas in Central Jakarta and Benteng Kuto Besak in Palembang. Thousands attended and the events even included a traditional dance, “Ruwat Bumi,” bringing national pride and creating an energy of unison throughout the country.