Despite campaign promises by Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) to boost Taiwan’s global presence by holding various international sporting events, Taipei in March this year stealthily withdrew its bid to host the 2019 Asian Games.
In the run-up to the Olympic Council of Asia’s (OCA) announcement of the host city for the 18th Asian Games tomorrow, Taipei City Councilor Chuang Ruei-hsiung (莊瑞雄) of the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) said he was recently surprised to discover from his exchanges with the city government that it had withdrawn its widely trumpeted bid for the sports event long ago.
Chuang made the discovery when he approached the city government to obtain information pertaining to the city’s bid and to find out who had been selected to represent the city at the announcement ceremony in Macau, only to receive an unexpected response that “the city’s Asian Games bid has been recalled.”
After launching a probe into the matter, Chuang found that the city government withdrew its bid in a letter to the Sports Affairs Council on March 29, in which it said that due to several major infrastructure plans laid out for the city in the coming years, it would like to recall its bid for the 2019 Asian Games, as well as the 2017 Asian Youth Games.
“The city government will not make its official announcement public until the council notifies the OCA of our withdrawal,” the letter said. “Please explain on behalf of the city government our situation to the OCA.”
Taipei City Government spokesman Chang Chi-chiang (張其強) yesterday confirmed that the city had withdrawn the bid, saying that as the city has won the right to host the 2017 Summer Universiade, it had to drop the 2019 Asian Games bid to better concentrate available manpower and resources on the former.
In March 2010, Taipei beat the then-Kaohsiung City and the then-Taipei County in a vote by the Chinese Taipei Olympic Committee on who would bid to represent Taiwan in the competition to host the next Asian Games.
On Aug. 3, 2010, Hau, seeking re-election, was accompanied by then-New Taipei City mayoral candidate Eric Chu (朱立倫) of the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) and then-KMT secretary-general King Pu-tsung (金溥聰) as he announced the city’s plan to spend about NT$31 billion (US$1.06 billion) promoting and facilitating its bid to host the Games.
Hau and Chu, both clad in baseball uniforms, also trumpeted their planned joint bid to host the 2017 East Asian Games and the 2017 Summer Universiade.
However, Taipei’s withdrawal may not come as a shock to DPP Legislator Hsiao Bi-khim (蕭美琴), who, in her capacity as campaign spokesperson for then-DPP New Taipei City mayoral candidate Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文), said that Taipei would most likely give up on its much-publicized bid.
“While I welcome the determination demonstrated by city governments to compete for the rights to host international sporting events, what really matters are executive power and capability,” Hsiao said at the time. “After all, the KMT has a reputation of being a ‘halfway quitter’ when it comes to bidding for such events.”
In response to Hsiao’s criticism, Chu’s campaign office at the time said that the “Duo-Taipei” joint bids that put the 2019 Asian Games as a top priority were a “practical and honest” tactic.
When the allegations that the city was to withdraw its Asian Games bid first emerged in March, Taipei City Councilor Chin Hui-chu (秦慧珠) of the KMT lambasted Hau for breaking his campaign promises and acting as a “fraudster in the international sports arena.”
“The Taipei City Government submitted a pie-in-the-sky proposal without doing a thorough assessment and then ran away after it had grabbed the bidding rights from other hopefuls,” she said at the time. “Such conduct shows no regard whatsoever for the city’s integrity and the country’s global image, and it is a laughing-stock in the international community.”
Chuang on Monday blasted the city’s unilateral withdrawal of its bid as a decision that forsook the public, as well as the other two hopeful bidders, then-Kaohsiung City and then-Taipei County.
Accusing the city government of trifling with its Asian Games bid, Chuang said it should not have competed against the two other bidders if it had known it was not capable of hosting the event.
“The Taipei City Government owes an apology to both Kaohsiung and New Taipei City [新北市, the successor of Taipei County],” Chuang added.
Calling into question the city government’s budget for its Asian Games bid, Chuang said: “On the one hand, the city government claimed it withdrew the bid due to an inadequate budget and insufficient time to construct the required stadiums, while on the other it squandered about NT$1.27 million taking government officials on a fact-finding visit to Dubai in April 2010.”
In November of the same year, the city government also spent NT$607,417 on another fact-finding visit to Guangzhou, China, the host of the 2010 Asian Games, followed by a fact-finding trip to Tokyo, Japan, Chuang said.