Asiad: We can script a success story

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The Vietnamese delegation at the Olympic Council of Asia's general assembly in Macau on November 8 when Hanoi won the bid to host the 2019 Asian Games. The hosting has become a subject of controversy in a country still reeling from the economic downturn.

Hosting the Asian Games in 2019 was already a controversial topic in the country before we won the bid early this month.

Worries about the current economic and state budget difficulties have overshadowed any happiness that might have been there for Vietnam becoming only the second Southeast Asian country to win the bid to host the region's biggest sporting event, also known as Asiad.

So people have been wondering if they should celebrate this victory or not.

It is true that in such a situation, which involves spending huge sums of money on organizing a sports event, however big and honorable it may be, will cause different opinions to be expressed.

But, since the hosting of the Games is apparently a done deal, officials and experts need to work together to make it profitable instead of worrying how wasteful it is going to be, or trying to convince people they will organize it as economically as possible.

The 2012 London Olympics is the latest and clear example showing that hosting international sports events can benefit an economy, if they are organized well.

When winning the bid to host the world's foremost sports competition held every four years, Britain also drew criticism because it would cost a stupendous US$14.5 billion at a time the country was facing its first double-dip recession since the 1970s.

However, post-Olympics reports showed that the event, which was held between July 27 and August 12, helped lift the British troubled economy out of recession, thanks to added commerce in related products and services.

A report on The Telegraph's website, for instance, quoted official data in August showing Britain's earnings rose nine percent on the year thanks to tourists' spending during the event. Statistics also showed that country's unemployment rate fell to its lowest level in almost a year partly due to jobs created by the Games, The Guardian reported in August. This is not to mention an increase of one percent in third quarter gross domestic product (GDP).

In 1984, the Los Angeles Games earned the city $335 million in profit for hosting the Olympics. No clear profit or loss figures are available for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing, but analysts say it spotlighted and fostered China's economic prowess and growth.

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Of course, on the other hand, we should not forget bitter lessons from countries like Canada and Greece, which experienced public debt crises after making huge investments into such sporting events.

Therefore, authorities here need to make careful plans for every industry to make proper use of opportunities that hosting the Asian Games offers.

For example, the aviation, tourism and hospitality industries need to cooperate to organize tours for visitors while they are in Vietnam to watch the Games. And, craft villages and textile companies need to be supported to create quality souvenirs themed on the event.

It should be ensured that construction works for the event are designed and built in such a way that they can be used for long-term development of sports in the country.

Whether Hanoi will emulate London and Los Angeles and see a magical economic boost, or get mired in debt like Greece after hosting the sports extravaganza depends on us.

So, instead of restricting ourselves to "being most economical," or concentrating on adding favorable games to earn medals, Vietnam needs to work to turn the Asiad into a profitable deal that will not only improve the economy but also promote the country's international image.

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