The middle of August has been a busy time for the Indonesian government. The 50th anniversary of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Indonesia’s 72nd Independence Day and the launch of the one year road to the Asian Games 2018 all took place in the same week.
But if President Joko ‘Jokowi’ Widodo was overwhelmed, he showed no signs of it on August 18 as he oversaw the Countdown to the Asian Games celebration at the National Monument, better known as Monas, in Central Jakarta.
He was joined by Vice President Jusuf Kalla, Youth and Sports Minister Imam Nahrawi, Coordinating Ministry for Human Development and Cultural Affairs Puan Maharani and former president Megawati Soekarnoputri.
The Games will see Jakarta and Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra, share the honour of hosting.
This is the second time Jakarta has hosted the Games, but the first time the responsibility has been split between two cities. Venues in Bandung, West Java and Banten will also host the massive Games which will see countries from across Asia take part.
Jakarta-Palembang weren’t originally named hosts. Vietnam’s Hanoi was initially to play host, but pulled out citing financial issues. The Vietnamese government is not alone in having concerns over the rising costs of hosting such massive events.
Former Jakarta Governor Basuki ‘Ahok’ Tjahaja Purnama was not excited at the prospect of the city hosting the 2018 Games. He suggested back in 2015 that Jakarta would be better off using the money it would cost to develop the specific infrastructure and host facilities would be better utilised in one of the pressing transportation projects.
“Jakarta is already too big for the Asian Games,” Ahok said in December 2015.
His campaign to have Palembang the sole host quickly went nowhere and he spent the next year overseeing the development and construction of facilities, including a massive overhaul of the Bung Karno Stadium sporting complex in Senayan, South Jakarta.
The current budget allocation for infrastructure development for Asian Games 2018 in both Jakarta and Palembang sits at Rp.5.5 trillion (US$411 million), according to Public Works and Public Housing Minister Basuki Hadimuljono.
Hadimuljono meets frequently with Jokowi and Vice President Jusuf Kalla to update them on progress, according to local media reports.
Construction is on track, the minister said earlier on the year, with no major delays expected ahead of the Games.
The president has been involved in monitoring the budget himself, telling a limited meeting with relevant ministers back in June that he “wants the budget to be calculated properly in detail” and reminding that construction must completed on time and budgets cannot be inflated.
For Jokowi, the Asian Games 2018 appear to be his moment to show the world the advances Indonesia has made under his leadership. A well-run Games with state-of-the-art facilities and clean governance is important to him.
“It could boost our name in the international community,” Jokowi said in June.
In addition to sporting facilities and athletes’ accommodation, the Jakarta government is also expected to have the Mass Rapid Transit, Light Rail Transit and the airport commuter rail line up and running before the opening ceremony in August next year.