A joint-city bid for the 2023 Asian Games was ruled out by the head of the Olympic Council of Asia yesterday after Hanoi was declared the winner of the 2019 edition, defeating Indonesia's Surabaya in a tight race.
There were suggestions from certain sections of the OCA previously that a joint bid by Hong Kong, Macau and Shenzhen for the 2023 Games might be attractive and cost-saving.
But Sheikh Ahmad al-Fahad al-Sabah, the OCA president, said preference would always be given to a single city.
"Usually a big multi-sports event like the Olympics or the Asian Games should be held in one city. If that city has problems hosting any particular sport, like Beijing did with equestrian [at the 2008 Olympics], then maybe another city could come into the picture. But I prefer one city," Sheikh Ahmad said,
Hong Kong had hoped to bid for the 2019 Games but the proposal was shot down by Legco, which said it was too expensive and the money would be better spent elsewhere.
A 2023 bid is still a possibility but Hong Kong's Olympic chief, Timothy Fok Tsun-ting, has sought to downplay any such moves, preferring to test the water in Macau in the past couple of days.
"It would be nice if other countries want us to bid for the 2023 Games. But we will have to wait and see. It is still too early to decide," Fok said before the 31st OCA General Assembly got under way yesterday.
Hong Kong's hopes of a successful 2023 bid looked more remote after Dubai, a candidate for the 2019 Games, officially withdrew its bid before the 44 countries in the OCA - India was absent - began to vote, with Sheikh Ahmad saying Dubai would bid in the future.
It left Hanoi and Surabaya in the running.
Despite a better presentation and an impassioned plea from Indonesia's National Olympic Committee president, Rita Subowo, to give Indonesia the Games for the second time (Jakarta hosted them in 1962), Hanoi carried the day.
The 80-strong Surabaya delegation included two former Olympic champions, Allan Budi Kusuma and Susi Susanti, who both won badminton golds at the Barcelona Games. They flanked teenage sailing star Dyan Puspitorni, who pleaded with OCA delegates to vote for her city. That fell on deaf ears.
"The result was very tight," Sheik Ahmad said. He refused to divulge how the voting had gone, but many experienced observers felt Hanoi had the race in the bag, especially since the Vietnamese government had signed a agreement underwriting the cost of the Games.
Hoang Tuan Anh, Vietnam's minister for sports, culture and tourism, said: "We are so happy that we won. We will deliver a successful Games."
Hoang Vinh Giang, an OCA vice president and a member of the Vietnamese Olympic Committee, said: "This is the first time in our history that we have got the chance to host the second biggest multi-sports event next to the Olympics and we are delighted. The Vietnamese people are happy."
Dubai's pull-out from the 2019 race could mean that a decision has been done behind closed doors for the city to host the 2023 Games.
Dubai's original proposal was also a shared bid with other cities in the United Arab Emirates, including Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.
Before the voting was counted, Sheikh Ahmad said the loser would have the choice of hosting the 2021 Asian Youth Games. Surabaya accepted, but it was small consolation.
"We all knew beforehand that we would not win," said a disgruntled member of the Indonesian delegation. "This result did not come as a shock to us."
- Games were originally scheduled to take place in 2018 but the OCA decided in 2009 to permanently shift the quadrennial event to the year before the Summer Olympics.
- Games take place November/December 2019.
- Hanoi will host just 35 sports - the 28 core Olympic sports plus seven to reflect Asia's sporting traditions.
- Three Asian Games host cities - Tokyo (1958), Seoul (1986) and Beijing (1990) - have subsequently hosted the Summer Olympics.