By Nick Butler

President Elect Joko Widodo has granted his blessing to Indonesia's bid to host the 2019 Asian Games ©AFP/Getty ImagesIndonesian President-elect Joko Widodo has given his blessing to Jakarta and Palembang's attempt to step in and host the 2019 Asian Games following the withdrawal of initial hosts Hanoi earlier this year.  

The Vietnamese capital withdrew in April due to economic pressures and Indonesia, which had finished runner-up in the initial race and has staged the Games only once before in Jakarta in 1962, emerged as the immediate front-runner to step in.

But, while the original bid planned for the Games to be held in the country's second largest city of Surabaya, the bid has now switched to the capital city, Jakarta, with Palembang in South Sumatra acting as co-host.

Although other countries - including India, Thailand, Malaysia and Taiwan - seriously considered whether to bid, only Indonesia is now left in the race.

Joko, elected President last month and due to formally replace Prabowo Subianto on October 20, expressed his support following a meeting with a delegation including the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) vice-president, Wei Jizhong, and Indonesian Olympic Committee chief Rita Subowo.

"According to the OCA, Jakarta would be a suitable host for the Games because our sports venues are ready," Joko said after the meeting.

"With the BMW Stadium finishing construction in two years, we will have one additional facility.

"South Sumatra also said it was ready to support the event.

"We can even start the preparation as soon as possible, with the organisation, sports facilities and the city's infrastructure.

"It's an honour for us as a nation to be able to hold such a prestigious sporting event.

"This is Indonesia's opportunity to not only promote our country, but to also show the world that we have the strength and capacity to successfully complete a huge task such as hosting the Asian Games."

It is expected that the Indonesian bid will focus around Jakarta and Palembang ©AFP/Getty ImagesIt is expected that the Indonesian bid will focus around Jakarta and Palembang
©AFP/Getty Images

Although a number venues would need to be constructed or rebuilt, including the Rawamangun Velodrome for cycling, Indonesia's hosting of the 2011 Southeast Asian Games means there are already a number of facilities ready.

Jizhong, a former International Olympic Committee member who was President of the International Volleyball Federation from 2008 until 2012, also expressed excitement over meeting the President-elect and having the chance to speak with him about the event.

"It's an honour for us to be received by the President-elect and the Jakarta Government," he said.

"The OCA has received a request from the Government of Indonesia that officially nominates Jakarta as the main host city.

"However, it [the letter] does not yet include Palembang because Jakarta must first be chosen by the Council [in September] before it can name Palembang as co-host.

"From what we have seen during our inspection [of the capital], we deem Jakarta to be a suitable candidate [to play host].

"The only suggestion we would make is to modernise the city's existing sporting facilities."

Positive sentiments were expressed by South Sumatra Governor Alex Noerdin, who is confident the Province's capital city would make a strong co-host, pointing out that Palembang had successfully hosted the 2011 Southeast Asian Games and the 2013 Islamic Solidarity Games.

"We're ready to host 23 sports disciplines, even now and we are confident we can succeed," he said. 

A final decision will be taken at the OCA General Assembly on September 20 during the next edition of the Asian Games in Incheon.

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

Related stories
August 2014: Jakarta will be ready to host 2019 Asian Games, says city official
July 2014: India withdraw bid for 2019 Asian Games due to lack of Government support
May 2014: Indonesia remain favourites to host 2019 Asian Games despite interest from India
May 2014: Indonesia set to announce readiness to replace Hanoi as host of 2019 Asian Games
April 2014: New 2019 Asian Games host to be chosen in September as it is claimed Indonesia are favourites