Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah, President of the Olympic Council of Asia, talks with Hoang Tuan Anh, Vietnam's Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism at OCA headquarters in Kuwait Wednesday. PHOTO COURTESY OF OCA
The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) said Wednesday that it understands Vietnam’s financial difficulties and will not impose any penalties on the country for declining to host the 2019 Asian Games (Asiad).
Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah, president of the council, made the remark after Hoang Tuan Anh, Vietnam’s sports minister, expressed his regret that his country had to withdraw its offer to host the event given “the economic recession and budgetary strains.”
Anh made the remarks while leading a Vietnamese delegation to OCA headquarters in Kuwait.
“In the Asian sports family, our unity and solidarity are very unique, there isn't any kind of penalty but support and understanding,” Sheikh Ahmad said in a statement.
“We fully understand the situation in Vietnam. OCA isn't upset for this decision, we welcome it because it gives us ample time to find a suitable replacement,” he said.
Apart from financial reasons, Anh also said “Vietnam is not experienced enough in hosting such large scale sports events.
“However, I’m able to guarantee that we will host a great 2016 Nha Trang Asian Beach Games,” he said.
At a meeting of the central government last week, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung instructed agencies concerned to touch base with the OCA and involved partners on the country's decision to pull plug on the quadrennial 2019 Asiad.
Dung said hosting the event would be unjustifiably expensive for Vietnam and if the hosting is not properly and successfully prepared, the country's reputation would be at risk.
In 2012, the capital city of Hanoi won the vote over Surabaya of Indonesia in a two-city race. 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 Earlier, four other potential bidders, including Taipei, Kuala Lumpur, New Delhi and Hong Kong had withdrawn, mostly for financial reasons.
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.
Last month Vietnam estimated the the the Asian Games would cost US$300 million to host, double the initial estimate. Experts believe the figure could be much higher given that South Korea spent $1.62 billion on the event this year.
The Asian Games feature events similar to the Summer Olympics but also include popular Asian sports.
More than 40 countries participate.