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Flying the Flag

Elisha Chauhan asks the OCA (Olympic Council of Asia) how it plans to make its flagship Asian Games more financially attractive to potential bidding cities from 2019 onwards.

This year’s Asian Games, the showpiece event of continental governing body the OCA, will be hosted by South Korean city Incheon at the end of next month. Catering for around 12,000 athletes, the host has budgeted $1.62 billion to develop venues, cover the cost of road projects and build training venues.

Cost is the single largest factor that deters a region from bidding for a major sports event, as was the case for the original 2019 Asian Games host, Vietnam’s second-largest city Hanoi, which revoked its hosting rights this April. Despite Hanoi being named 2019 host in November 2012, the country’s prime minister Nguyen Tan Dung said Vietnam was still suffering from the effects of global recession and that venues would be too difficult to make profitable in the long-term.

Delhi – 2014 Games losing bidder – failed to gain government backing for a 2019 bid before an extended deadline last month, and the OCA has two potential hosts, one believed to be Indonesian capital Jakarta, in mind as it looks to vote for a replacement host at its general assembly in September. The 2019 edition itself was also pushed backed a year so that the OCA could drum up more bidders.

“The philosophy of the Asian Games is to adhere to a host city’s infrastructure plans. For a country to reap hosting benefits, it is very important for us to consider its politics, economics, social and sporting factors,” Husain Al Musallam, the OCA’s director general and technical director, told SportBusiness International.

“If we, as an organisation, say to a country that we don’t care about requests or plans [to push the Asian Games a year back], then we cannot create a good atmosphere for the Games.

Al Musallam insists that the OCA is not struggling to find bidders to host the Games, saying that the body only consists of 45 member nations of which around two or three interested cities per quadrennial event is normal.

“The OCA has to modify our host city contract, that’s for sure," says Husain Al Musallam, the OCA’s director general and technical director – Getty Images Sport

“If one bidder has a solid plan backed by its citizens and is integrated with the existing development plans for the city, and the other bidder just wants to host the Games for the sake of it, we will only propose the logical bidder – believe me, we have done it before and will do it again,” he adds.

“Given the economic situation, you can’t waste money on a bid that isn’t going to win just for the sake of increasing the number of bidders.”

Neverthless, Al Musallam says the OCA is working to create a healthier landscape for bidding cities, including the discouragement of “expensive” joint bids.

“The OCA has to modify our host city contract, that’s for sure. We have to highlight that there should only be one core city [as opposed to joint bids],” he says.

“We can look to have more disciplines instead of lots of different sports. We have included sports that are not in the Olympic programme; we need to reach an agreement with these non-Olympic sports’ international federations about how they can be included in the Games without as many disciplines, for example kabaddi or sepaktakraw. This is so we can make the Games more manageable.

“We can also extend the time in between awarding the hosting rights and the actual Games – at the moment we have six years, but we can push this to seven or eight years. We will announce all changes in Incheon after the OCA general assembly.”

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