Graduate student pursuing her master’s degree in Security Policy Studies at George Washington University
Ampera Bridge is a landmark of Palembang. (Shutterstock/File)
The year of 2018 is a busy time for sporting events, with not only the World Cup in Russia but also the upcoming Asian Games, which will be hosted by Indonesia in Jakarta, the country’s capital, and Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra.
Driving through the roads of Jakarta, one can see the city preparing for the 18th Asian Games with banners installed around the city, old sports facilities being renovated and new infrastructure being built to support the games.
Though Indonesia is no stranger to hosting the Asian Games, being the host country at this time has many positive implications. The games will commence one day after Indonesia celebrates 73 years of independence. From August 18 to September 2, Indonesia will welcome around 15,000 athletes and distinguished delegates from 45 OCA member nations, the largest number in Asian Games history.
The first benefit of being the host is that Indonesia has the opportunity to strengthen the country’s national pride. Indonesia is made up of more than 17,000 islands, characterized by differences in language, culture and history.
The Asian Games logo, Energy of Asia, depicts the “strengthening spirit of the Games, participated in by multicultural nations shining for all the world to see.” This year, the mascots, Bhin Bhin, Atung and Kaka, wear traditional attire inspired by Papua, Jakarta and Palembang. Thus, hosting the Asian Games creates a space for unifying the country by bringing people from the various islands together under one country.
In addition, the Asian Games bring Asian countries together as a unified continent. Recognized by the International Olympic Committee as the largest multi-sport event after the Olympics, the Asian Games sheds positive light on the region to outshine the current political and maritime issues. In fact, amid the recent reconciliation talks between North and South Korea, both nations have agreed to march under a unified peninsula flag and form combined teams to compete in the games. This exemplifies the games’ promotion of peace and harmony in the region, and therefore, the world.
Second, hosting the Asian Games will also signify a positive and reputable image of Indonesia to the region and the world. From the proud skyscrapers of Jakarta to the Musi River and unique Pempek food of Palembang, Indonesia has breath-taking scenery and delicious dishes to wow visitors.
For President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo, the Asian Games will announce to the world that Indonesia is advancing and will “elevate its name in the international community”.
Preparations for the games are currently moving at a fast pace. Competition venues and facilities are being brought up to international standard, the athletes village is being refurbished, and infrastructure and fast modes of transportation are being improved to provide rapid access for participants and visitors. The games will hopefully have a lasting impact, especially since “all infrastructure and facilities have been built for future use”, as stated by Indonesian media tycoon Erick Thohir.
Third, assuming that the 2018 Asian Games will be successful, it will boost the country’s tourism industry and produce economic benefits. According to Tourism Minister Arief Yahya, the upcoming Games aim to welcome 250,000 supporters from ASEAN and other Asian countries, which will allow visitors from participating countries to embrace the land and culture of Indonesia. In addition, these visitors may feel inclined to visit other islands of the archipelago. While tourism in Indonesia has more than doubled over the past decade to become a major driver of the economy, the Asian Games may help achieve the goal of the government to “replicate the success of Bali as a tourist destination in a number of other locations spread across Indonesia”.
The combination of athletes, officials, supporters and spectators expected to be present brings high hopes to the Indonesian economy. Bambang Brodjonegoro, Minister for National Planning (Bappenas), estimates that hosting the Asian Games will facilitate a cash flow of Rp. 45.1 trillion to the Indonesian economy in addition to bringing Rp. 34 trillion worth of investment in infrastructure for the organization of the event.
Looking forward, the Asian Games not only put Indonesia in the spotlight but may even mobilize further development in the country. There already has been some rapid infrastructure development in both cities, such as the construction of the Palembang Light Rail Transit (LRT), the velodrome and a certified equestrian center. The games will be the perfect opportunity to see the region come together in a fast-paced and volatile environment.
The 18th Asian Games signify not only a fun and meaningful event to the region and the world, but also provide that push Indonesia needs to keep going. Stay tuned for when the Asian Games torch is lit on July 14 in India and is then carried on a journey throughout the wonderful Indonesia. (wng)
Telesha Mahadeo is a graduate student pursuing her master’s degree in Security Policy Studies at the Elliott School of International Affairs at George Washington University. She graduated from Northeastern University in 2017 with a bachelor’s degree in International Affairs and Economics, with a minor in Spanish. Her interests include conflict resolution, gender equality, disarmament as well as security and development. She is currently interning at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Indonesia.
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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not reflect the official stance of The Jakarta Post.