Jakarta and Palembang: Tale of two contrasting Asian Games co-hosts
By Bharat Sharma
Jakarta, Aug 30 (PTI) A bustling metropolis and a conservative capital of South Sumatra province, the co-hosts of the ongoing Asian Games -- Jakarta and Palembang are like chalk and cheese.
The two cities paint a contrasting picture even though Indonesia as a whole deals with rising Islamic influence in its sociopolitical landscape.
Jakarta seems like any other modern city, welcoming you with a sea of skyscrapers which are tall enough to hide the poor pockets of the Indonesian capital.
The hijabs that are a must for the women in Palembang, make way for the flowing locks in Jakarta. There is only one thing that unites them: their endless love for Bollywood and its famous son -- Shahrukh Khan.
Expectedly, due concerns were raised when it was decided that Palembang will be partially hosting the Asian Games alongside Jakarta.
"Yes, there were concerns. We were not sure if there were enough hotels in Palembang to meet the huge demand during the Games. The city is also traditional, a bit on the conservative side," Muhammad Buldansyah, media head of Games organising committee, INASGOC, told PTI.
"But then we had the infrastructure in place and little time. In addition to that, South Sumatra governor was more than supportive."
Palembang is not an international city, certainly not the best advert of Indonesia, but the fact that it had a sporting history, having hosted the Southeast Asian Games in 2011, proved to be the clincher. Jakarta, being the capital and host of 1962 Asiad, was a natural choice.
Originally, Surabaya, country's second largest city, was picked to host the Asian Games but in the host city race, it lost to Hanoi in 2012.
As things would pan out two years later, Indonesia was chosen as the host country by Olympic Council of Asia following Vietnam's pull-out owing to financial constraints.
It left Indonesia with four years to prepare with business tycoon Erick Thohir at the helm of affairs. Most of the infrastructure was in place, a full-fledged sport city in Palembang and a state of the art sports complex in the heart of Jakarta, but multiple cities hosting the world's second biggest multi sporting event for the first time posed a stiff challenge.
"It was a huge challenge but it was important for the economy of both the cites. This (two cities hosting) could actually be the way forward for the Asian Games," Thohir had said in the lead-up to the event.
Buldansyah, on his part added: "There were challenges, especially in Palembang, but the OCA was satisfied with the facilities. It gave its go ahead and we tried our best."
Traffic, terrorism and crime were also a major concern. But Indonesia put out all the stops to ensure a fairly smooth conduct of the Games.
With three days to go for the closing ceremony, it won't be pre-mature to say 'a job well done'