Thu, Mar 08, 2018 - Page 16 News List

Traffic poses challenge to Asia’s top sporting event

Bloomberg

With barely six months to go for Asia’s biggest sporting event, the main challenge is not the readiness of venues or athlete villages — but Jakarta’s notorious traffic.

The Asian Games managers are now seeking to shut down schools and stagger office hours to ease traffic snarls and ensure the 18th edition of the event runs smoothly, Indonesia Asian Games Organizing Committee chairman Erick Thohir said.

The organizers also want a dedicated road lane for the thousands of participating athletes and officials, he said.

Jakarta and Palembang in South Sumatra will jointly host the quadrennial event from Aug. 18, the first time the Southeast Asian nation will organize the sporting extravaganza since 1962.

More than 15,000 athletes and officials from 45 countries will vie for honors in 47 sporting disciplines — more than the 30 sports at the Tokyo Summer Olympics in 2020.

“The Asian Games is as big as the Olympics in terms of participation of athletes and officials,” said Thohir, who is also the president of Inter and D.C. United. “If you consider the number of sports, the Asian Games will be bigger with 47 disciplines. The only concern about the success of this edition remains traffic in Jakarta.”

The streets of Jakarta, a city of about 10 million people and the epicenter of business for Southeast Asia’s biggest economy, are often congested, with traffic jams creating a major obstacle to logistics and economic activity.

To overcome the problem, the provincial government is planning an electronic toll system to be rolled out in March next year, when the first stage of a metro train service is completed.

With more than 10 million motorcycles and about 4 million cars already on Jakarta’s streets, the city is already toying with the idea of a congestion tax to discourage use of private vehicles. The city already has an odd-even rule linked to vehicle registration numbers for some of its busiest streets.

A successful conclusion of the Asian Games would also stimulate the nation’s economy and tourism, Thohir said.

Participants of the Asian Games will be issued one-month visas that the organizers hope will draw athletes and spectators to famous tourist destinations like Bali and Borobodur, he said.

The Asian Games will cost about 6.6 trillion rupiah (US$462 million), according to the organizing committee.

Taiwanese athletes participate in the Games under the flag of Chinese Taipei, according to membership in Olympic Council of Asia.

Additional reporting by staff writer

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