Hanoi expected to be voted host of 2019 Asian Games
Surabaya and Dubai also in running to stage world's second largest multi-sports showpiece
Hanoi has emerged as favourite to win today's Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) vote to host the 2019 Asian Games, the second-largest multi-sports games next to the Olympics, which Hong Kong thumbed its nose at and turned down the opportunity to contest.
The Vietnamese capital is competing against Dubai and Surabaya in Indonesia. Forty-five countries and territories have gathered in Macau for the 31st OCA general assembly for the vote.
It seems, however, that Hanoi has grabbed the inside track thanks to the Vietnamese government signing a pledge to make the games a success and promising to spend billions of dollars on a massive programme to develop the city's infrastructure.
"The government and the city of Hanoi are fully behind the bid to host the 2019 Asian Games," said Hoang Vinh Giang, OCA vice-president and a member of Vietnam's National Olympic Committee.
"This is just not about the Asian Games, it's about creating a new Hanoi and the government is fully behind our bid. They have already written to the Olympic Council of Asia pledging the financial commitment needed to make the games a success," Giang said.
"The infrastructure project has already been mapped out and it will transform Hanoi into a modern city. There are plans to build bridges and highways.
"We have already allocated 39 hectares for an athlete's village, which after the games will be used for public housing.
"The Asian Games will be used to develop Hanoi. We plan to have 36 sports. Hanoi has already hosted the 22nd SEA [South East Asian] Games in 2003 and the first Asian Indoor Games in 2009. But if we win the vote, and we are very confident, this will be our biggest event," Giang said.
A high-level government delegation, including the Vietnam's minister of culture, sports and tourism, the president of its national Olympic committee and the vice-mayor are among a large delegation who will gather at the Macau Dome this afternoon for the vote.
Although Surabaya and Dubai are in the race, it is believed the latter will pull out before today's final presentation by the cities.
At yesterday's opening address at the OCA executive board meeting, president Sheikh Ahmed Al-Sabah said "two" cities were in the running.
OCA officials later downplayed this and said it was "a mistake". But whispers are Dubai will pull out as Hanoi is all but certain of winning the vote.
But Indonesia's Olympic chief Rita Subowo remained confident Surabaya, the country's second-largest city after Jakarta, would win.
"It has been a long time since the Asian Games was held in Indonesia [1962 in Jakarta] and it's about time we got it back again," Subowo said.
"This games is for the youth of our country."