My Dinh Stadium in Hanoi, built at great expense for the 2003 Southeast Asian Games, has not been of much use since. Critics are urging Vietnam to withdraw from hosting the 2019 Asian Games, saying it will incur similar huge, wasteful expenditures at a time of great economic difficulty.
Facing strict criticism over the high cost of hosting the 2019 Asian Games (Asiad) amid economic difficulties and lack of sports infrastructure, Vietnam is considering withdrawing from the region’s largest sporting event.
At a regular meeting of the central government on Tuesday, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung instructed the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to submit a detailed plan on hosting the 2019 Asiad.
Dung said so far the ministry only reported to the National Assembly, Vietnam’s legislature, about hosting the event.
"I haven’t heard anything and I am not clear on anything,” he said at the meeting.
Dung said relevant agencies have to handle the issue thoughtfully.
“We agreed to host Asiad but it should only be carried out, with approval from the Prime Minister, when there is a feasible plan. Otherwise, [Vietnam] won’t host [the event],” he said.
Dung instructed Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam and Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Hoang Tuan Anh to report to him about the issue next week.
Earlier, at a meeting to discuss the issue last Saturday, Deputy PM Dam had told relevant agencies to consider withdrawing from hosting the event.
Despite several ministry representatives saying it would be very difficult for Vietnam to withdraw after accepting to host the event, Dam instructed relevant agencies to touch base with the Olympic Committee of Asia (OCA) and involved partners on a withdrawal plan.
The OCA was not immediately available for comment.
In 2012, Hanoi won the vote over Surabaya of Indonesia in a two-city race, making it the first Southeast Asian nation to hold the event in 20 years.
Dubai reportedly pulled out at the last minute saying it wanted to focus on future bids. Earlier, four other potential bidders, including Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, New Delhi and Hong Kong had withdrawn, mostly for financial reasons.
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Ever since, critics have said that organizing such a big event would result in an economic burden and that the actual cost of hosting the Asiad would be much higher than the estimated amount.
When bidding for the event in 2012, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism estimated the cost would be US$150 million, which was already criticized as too high for Vietnam.
But at a meeting last month, Deputy Finance Minister Do Hoang Tuan Anh quoted a Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism plan as saying that the government will have to prepare over VND5.47 trillion for the event, almost doubling the initial estimate.