By Nick Butler

Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah has said Indonesia will host the Asian Games in 2018 ©TwitterOlympic Council of Asia (OCA) President Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah has said Indonesia will step in and host the next edition of the Asian Games, but in 2018 rather than 2019 to avoid a clash with Presidential elections.
With the date of the Games set back a year to avoid a clash with both the Winter Olympics and the FIFA World Cup, Vietnamese capital Hanoi was selected as host in 2012, only to withdraw, citing economic pressures, earlier this year. 

Although many other countries were mooted as potential replacement, Indonesia, which finished second in the original race, swiftly became the firm favourite, although with an aim to focus the event on capital city Jakarta rather than 2012 candidate Surabaya.

Speaking today two days before the Opening Ceremony of Incheon 2014, Sheikh Ahmad has said Indonesia would be an appropriate and fully capable choice to step in.

"In less than one month, Indonesia was there ready to host it," the official, who is also head of the Association of National Olympic Committees, told Reuters.

"We have solved the issues with other cities, we have a good agreement - let's leave it to Indonesia.

"Because it was the competitor to Vietnam at the last vote, so Indonesia has to have the priority to host."

It is expected that this decision will be ratified by the OCA General Assembly when they meet in Incheon on Saturday (September 20).

Indonesia's attempt to host the Games is supported by leading officials, including President-elect Joko Widodo ©AFP/Getty ImagesIndonesia's attempt to host the Games is supported by leading officials, including President-elect Joko Widodo ©AFP/Getty Images

But significantly, Sheikh Ahmad added that the Games would now be brought forward a year to avoid a clash with the Indonesian Presidential election taking place in 2019.

It is hoped that the following edition will revert to the planned cycle of the year after the Winter Olympics and World Cup, so in 2023.

"It was decided the Asian Games would move from 2014 and 2018, to 2014 and 2019 because it would be good preparation for the Olympics," he told Reuters.

"But because Indonesia will have a presidential election in 2019 the requirement was to host it in 2018, which we don't mind, but we have to give it to the General Assembly to approve."

It is expected that Jakarta - a city that has hosted the Games only once before, in 1962 - will be the main location for the Games, with some events also taking place in Palembang, South Sumatra.

Among places initially rumoured to be planning to step in included Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Taiwan, Malaysia and the Philippines, while India made a more spirited attempt which eventually failed due to a lack of Government support.

In comparison, Indonesian President-elect Joko Widodo, who will formally replace Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on October 20 and would possibly be up for re-election in 2019, officially expressed his support to the bid when meeting an OCA delegation last month. 

But, given the problems with Hanoi, Sheikh Ahmad has said there will be changes to the way the OCA scrutinises future bids for the Asian Games, given the huge cost and infrastructure required to host an event second only to the Summer Olympics in terms of size.

"What we faced with Hanoi, it was a new experience," he admitted.

"We have to prepare our mechanisms so that we don't have this problem back."

Contact the writer of this story at [email protected]

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