Thailand holds off on Asian Games bid

Thailand holds off on Asian Games bid

Vietnam pulls out of organising the region's largest sporting event due to financial reasons and lack of experience

Thailand is not interested in hosting the 2019 Asian Games after Vietnam withdrew from organising the tournament for financial reasons, Thai officials said yesterday.

Vietnam said on Thursday it had decided against hosting the 18th Asian Games and is exploring procedures to withdraw from staging the region’s largest sporting event.

Vietnam will “quickly work with the Olympic Committee of Asia [OCA] for measures to pull out from the hosting of Asiad 18 in Hanoi,” said a statement posted on the government’s website after Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung convened a meeting to examine the issue.

A lack of experience in hosting large sporting events and “difficulties in the country’s socio-economic situation” were cited as reasons.

“Vietnam will apply for the hosting of Asiad at an appropriate time,” the statement said.

Gen Yutthasak Sasiprabha, president of the National Olympic Committee of Thailand (NOCT), said the kingdom had no interest in hosting the 2019 Asian Games.

“It is only five years from now. It is too soon for us to prepare for the 2019 Games,” said Yutthasak.

He said Thailand would go ahead with its plan to bid for the 2023 edition.

“The Olympic Council of Asia will have to find a new host which could be the UAE, China or Japan,” he said.

Vietnam won the right to host the 2019 Games in November 2012, beating Surabaya of Indonesia and Dubai of the UAE.

NOCT general-secretary Charouck Areerachakaran also said that after talks with officials from the Tourism and Sports Ministry, it was impossible for Thailand to host the 18th Games because of political problems and time.

Thailand has staged the Asian Games four times in 1966, 1970, 1978 and 1998.

The OCA said yesterday it was “surprised” by the decision, which leaves it scrambling to find a new host.

“The matter will have to be discussed at length by the OCA,” Randhir Singh, the group’s secretary-general, told The Associated Press.

“It’s a decision which has to be taken judiciously considering various factors. We have to decide who will be able to deliver, keeping in mind the time factor.”

According to an AFP report, hosting the 18th Asian Games could cost some US$150 million and would require the construction of new sporting stadiums and an athletes’ village.

But experts have said the real cost of the games, which were scheduled to run for 16 days, could have been far higher.

Vietnam’s Olympic Committee initially proposing a budget of around $300 million which the government slashed due to the country’s dire economic predicament.

Vietnam has been hit by falling growth as the effects of corruption and inefficiencies in the state-run sector ripple out into the wider economy, AFP reported.

A lingering banking crisis also threatens some of the country’s key financial institutions.

In recent weeks, state-run newspapers and popular blogs have run stories and comment pieces urging the government to withdraw from the Games and spend the money on other priorities.

This year’s Asian Games will be held in the South Korean city of Incheon from September to October.

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