Indonesia Asian Games 2018 Organising Committee chairman Erick Thohir (left).

ERICK THOHIR, the chairman of the Indonesia Asian Games 2018 Organising Committee (INASGOC), speaks to Timesport’s AJITPAL SINGH on his country’s plans to make next year’s showpiece the most memorable in the history of the Asiad

Question: How challenging has it been so far to prepare Indonesia for next year's Asian Games?

Answer: Quite challenging because the Asian Games will be held for the first time in two cities, Jakarta and Palembang. However, we are overcoming these challenges one by one. Support from our President, Mr. Joko Widodo has been tremendous. We cannot thank him enough for being entirely supportive.

We are fortunate that Palembang already has the Jakabaring Sports Complex. It has many venues, ranging from football stadiums, sport climbing arenas to tennis courts. We only need to renovate some venues, such as the shooting complex and the rowing arena. We will also provide an integrated transportation service from the Sultan Mahmud Badaruddin II Airport to Jakabaring Sports Complex. The Palembang Light Rail Transit will be completed before the Asian Games from the airport to the complex.

The challenge in Jakarta is greater for we need to provide more venues. We already have the iconic Senayan Sport Complex but all the venues need major renovations. The ongoing renovation will be completed in December this year, including some venues in Jakarta suburb for football. In total, we are spending about US$2.5 billion (RM10.7 billion) for infrastructure and other facilities for the Asian Games.

Q: Does Indonesia want to make it the best ever and most memorable Asian Games?

A:,/b> Sure, as hosts, our objective is to host the most wonderful and memorable Asian Games ever. Of course, Incheon 2014, as the latest Asian Games, will be our benchmark. Incheon 2014 was good in organising the event in all aspects. We strive to be better.

It is an Asian Games for all of Southeast Asia and next year’s edition will be held in this region for the first time since Bangkok in 1998. There is a collaboration among Indonesian and Asian artists to promote Indonesia’s great cultures combined with the latest technologies (for the opening and closing ceremonies). Indonesia is ready to welcome all athletes and fans to the Asian Games.

The theme for the opening ceremony will be “Energy of Asia” which corresponds to Asia’s countless initiatives in supporting culture, economy and innovation.

Q: There are fears that several infrastructures will not be ready in time for the Asian Games. What is your opinion on this?

A: We do not have any prominent obstacles. All infrastructures will be ready by December. Renovations for two venues for hockey (turf along with indoor and outdoor training pitches) and tennis is in the midst of completion.

In October, the Gelora Bung Karno main stadium and the aquatic venue will be ready for use while the Istora Stadium for badminton will be completed in November.

Other venues for basketball, softball and baseball, the training stadium and the Bung Karno zone one along with the Gelora zone, and Kemayoran Athletes Village will be completed in December.

We will host a pre-Asian Games event for 10 sports early next year to test the venues, transportation and other facilities.

Q: When is the deadline to complete all infrastructures (including refurbishing of existing ones and building new venues) for the Asian Games?

A: Taking into account all the preparations that we have done, I believe all will be ready by December.

Q: INASGOC want to reduce the number of Asian Games events, from 431 to 421 in 39 sports. Are the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) agreeable to this?

A: In principle, OCA have agreed to Indonesia's proposal to reduce the sport programme for next year’s Asian Games.

On April, 18, Vice President of the Republic of Indonesia, Mr. Jusuf Kalla had a meeting with OCA president Sheikh Ahmad Al Fahad Al Sabah, in which the council accommodated many of our proposals for the Asian Games that include the budget and sports reduction.

So far, we have agreed to 39 sports, consisting of 53 sports disciplines, and 431 events. A total of 31 out of 39 sports are currently part of the Olympic programme.

Q: Is there still room for Asian associations for sports already dropped from the Asian Games to appeal for inclusion?

A:I don't think so. We are already at the final stage to conclude the sport programme. In fact, we are currently at the stage to reduce the number of events with the reasoning of making the Asian Games more efficient.

Q: Pencak silat, jujitsu, sports climbing, paragliding, jet ski and bridge will make their debuts in next year's Asian Games. With the exception of silat, how popular are the other new inclusions in Asia? Are Indonesia confident of getting good numbers in terms of athletes for each sport?

A: Jujitsu recently became popular in Indonesia. Indonesia have competent world champions in sports climbing, paragliding and jet ski. In sports climbing, Agung Elly Hendrawati of Indonesia was once a world champion. In 2016, our team won two gold medals at the Asian Continental Championship in China. Indonesia has Lis Andriana, who is a world champion in paragliding accuracy. In jet ski, our Sutan Azwar has also won the World Championships.

Q: Any targets set for Indonesian athletes in the Asian Games?

A: We are aiming to be in the top 10 bracket and to achieve it, we need to win more than 10 gold medals.

We have the potential to win medals in weightlifting, aquatics (swimming), track and field, archery, martial arts, sports climbing, jet ski, paragliding and bridge.

In 2010 Incheon, we won only four gold but our athletes, I believe, will be eager to make lasting impressions at their own backyard. Indonesia’s best ever medal haul of 11 gold, 10 silver and 28 bronze medals in the Asian Games was achieved in the 1962 Jakarta edition).

Q: In terms of economic growth, what can Indonesia expect from the Asian Games?

A: One of the successful objectives of the Asian Games is economic empowerment. Indonesia, which is already a member of the G20 and currently experiencing the most attractive growth rate in Asia, could have the maximum positive impact from hosting the Asian Games.

In the medium and long run, Indonesia will gain from the Asian Games. The infrastructures in facilities and transportation being built for the Asian Games will see Indonesia gain economically.

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