Asian showpiece another fillip for Macau
Melanie Ho in Macau
On the drive to the Macau Stadium, candy-coloured lanterns adorned the lamp-posts with signage explaining some of the more obscure sports - finswimming, electronic sports, hoop sepak takraw.
As the Macau Second Asian Indoor Games head for the opening ceremony tomorrow, the quantity and spectrum of words used to describe the 17 competition and three demonstration sports is varied.
'Popular' and 'unusual', said Venetian Macau president Mark Brown.
Manuel Silverio, the chairman of Maigoc (the games organising committee), described the sports as 'non-Olympic, non-Asian Games' and others have described them as country-specific that are 'ethnic', but practised by many.
Whatever the descriptions, 477 medals will be handed out in 151 events that include everything from chess to three-on-three basketball. Over nine days, Macau will host 4,065 sporting delegates and more than 250 people from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and the Olympic Council of Asia (OCA).
The celebrities will come for the opening ceremony, most notably IOC president Jacques Rogge.
'These games are a new event from the OCA,' Silverio said. '[Rogge's presence] means the IOC president is very interested in giving special attention for sports development in this region.'
The games are the third such multi-sport event Macau has hosted in as many years (after the East Asian Games and last year's Lusofonia Games). The HK$380 million budget for these games is almost entirely funded by the government, with just HK$70 million coming from cash and value-in-kind sponsorship.
Macau will not profit from the games, but Silverio said hosting these types of events was essential in boosting a booming tourism industry and that costs were made affordable by an equally booming economy.
'After the establishment of the Macau SAR, our economy grew very fast,' Silverio said. 'We are very fortunate we can manage and afford these responsibilities.'
The games could also give Silverio an opportunity to further court Chinese Olympic Committee president Liu Peng, who is also expected to attend the opening ceremony. At the Communist Party's 17th National Congress Liu, who is also the country's sports minister, said China supported Macau's hopes of joining the IOC.
Silverio, though, said Macau need not press the issue. 'We are not in a hurry,' Silverio said when asked about a specific timeline.
Macau, he said, was in the midst of organising several projects that contributed to sports development that extended beyond the former Portuguese enclave and into Asia.
Take your pick
This many events will feature in the Asian Indoor Games in Macau, organised under the guidance of Manuel Silverio (below): 151